Colo. dental school may face $10 million lawsuit

2008 08 29 15 39 44 564 Justice Scale 70

A claim filed on behalf of a severely developmentally disabled woman alleges that the extraction of 13 teeth at the University of Colorado Denver School of Dental Medicine was done without appropriate supervision and consent, according to the latest in a series of reports by the Denver Post.

The notice of claim, filed last week on behalf of Ida Dunn, 54, alleges that an unlicensed resident did the extractions without appropriate supervision from Paul Bottone, D.D.S., the attending dentist assigned to the case, according to Dunn's attorney, Hollynd Hoskins. Such claims are required to preserve the plaintiff's right to file a lawsuit.

Dunn is seeking $10 million, claiming the dentists "willfully and wantonly" violated state dental law. State law normally caps legal liability at $150,000 for government employees, including those who work for a public university, unless their actions were willful or utterly indifferent.

"There is no evidence that the attending, Paul Bottone, was present during the procedure," stated court documents filed by Hoskins.

However, individuals associated with the case told that Dr. Bottone personally supervised the entire procedure after x-rays showed extensive bone loss, indicating that the extractions were necessary.

The consent form was signed with Dunn's stamp, which she uses because she cannot sign her name, according to the Post story. Dunn was under general anesthesia for the surgery, which is common for dental procedures involving disabled patients.

University spokeswoman Jacque Montgomery declined to discuss the allegations, citing Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations. But she did acknowledge that the consent form used by the university dental clinic includes permission for examinations, x-rays, fillings, and extractions.

Prescription questions

This is the second legal claim filed against the dental school in recent weeks. In February, a teenager who had her third molars removed at the school filed a claim against the university and the oral surgeon who operated on her without an active license. Anise Fletcher's claim alleges she was left with "bone chips" in her gums and nerve damage, according to a story in the Post.

The dentist who did the procedure, Randal James, D.D.S., has not had an active Colorado dental license since 2004 but has applied to the state dental board to reactivate it. He has been ordered by school administrators to stop seeing patients and supervising residents in the interim.

Normally, a dentist with an inactive license cannot practice in Colorado. However, an exception in the state law that existed prior to August 2009 allowed him to work at the dental school, and he continued to work in the university's Sands House Clinic and treat patients after the law changed.

Both Dr. James and dental school administrators said they were unaware the law had changed.

The Post also reported discrepancies on an order form for fentanyl, a class 2 controlled substance. The order, signed by Eric Miller, D.D.S., was dated July 11, 2007, five days after he resigned (July 6) over alleged sexual misconduct, according to the Post. Montgomery said that Dr. Miller wrote the order before he left and that the date refers to when it was filled.

Dr. James' initials appear in many of the drug logs, but Montgomery said he was not involved in the procurement or administration of them and that his initials reflect only that he witnessed "use and waste."

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