The total amount of the jury award includes interest, which means the patient's family will ultimately receive more than $12 million, said their attorney, David Mazie, in an interview with DrBicuspid.com.
On August 4, 2005, 21-year-old Francis Keller of Hopelawn, NJ, went to George Flugrad, D.M.D., to have his wisdom teeth removed. Keller was referred to Dr. Flugrad by John Madaras, D.D.S., of Fords, NJ.
The morning after the procedure, Keller's throat swelled in reaction to the surgery, and he began to have trouble breathing. He ultimately suffocated to death.
The jury found that Dr. Flugrad committed malpractice by extracting the patient's wisdom teeth despite being aware that Keller had an immune deficiency that precluded any surgery or other dental work.
Keller suffered from hereditary angioedema, a genetic disorder in which minor trauma to tissue, such as a tooth extraction, can trigger life-threatening laryngeal edema.
Keller's family sued Dr. Flugrad, claiming that he acted below the standard of care when he performed oral surgery.
"Despite having knowledge of the immune deficiency and the fact that Mr. Keller presented only for an initial evaluation, Dr. Flugrad proceeded to perform the extraction of three of Mr. Keller's wisdom teeth on that same day," stated a complaint filed by Keller's family.
The lawsuit also named Dr. Madaras. Keller had gone to Dr. Madaras in August 2005 because of pain in his jaw and gums. Dr. Madaras referred Keller to Dr. Flugrad to be evaluated for a possible wisdom tooth extraction procedure. At the time of the referral, Dr. Madaras was aware of Keller's condition, according to the complaint.
Throughout the trial, Dr. Madaras' and Dr. Flugrad's lawyers blamed the other party for Keller's death, Mazie said. Dr. Flugrad claimed that he was told by Dr. Madaras that Keller was medically cleared for the procedure. Dr. Madaras' attorney claimed that no such conversation occurred with Dr. Flugrad, according to Mazie.
Dr. Madaras was found not guilty of negligence.
"In the current legal environment, a dentist has to be aware of all circumstances while making the appropriate referral," said Marty Jablow, D.M.D., a fellow New Jersey dentist who referenced the case in a recent posting on his blog.
"It is believed that this is the largest oral surgery medical malpractice verdict in New Jersey history and one of the largest in the nation's history," Mazie's office stated in a press release.
Calls to Dr. Flugrad's and Dr. Madaras' offices for comments were not returned.
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