OHSU settles dental negligence claim for $950K

2014 03 14 15 01 02 730 Law Books 200

Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) has agreed to pay $950,000 to settle a medical negligence lawsuit after a dental resident permanently damaged a woman's mental nerve while trying to extract an ankylosed primary tooth.

Priscilla Schmidt went to OHSU in February 2012 to have the ankylosed tooth extracted, according to the complaint. Now, as a result of the surgery, Schmidt continues to suffer from severe pain, difficulty eating, and dysesthesia, which has severely affected her ability to speak and laugh without pain, the suit said.

"It has significantly affected many aspects of her life, including eating, talking, smiling, working, and sleeping," her attorney James Huegli told DrBicuspid.com, noting that Schmidt, who was 31 when she had the procedure, has also had to give up teaching Spanish.

“It has significantly affected many aspects of her life, including eating, talking, smiling, working, and sleeping.”
— James Huegli, attorney

Schmidt was examined by Philipp Kupfer, DMD, MD, a first-year resident who had received his license five months earlier. Dr. Kupfer told her the procedure was a "simple removal and that he had done 50 to 60 similar extractions that year," according to the filing.

Schmidt signed an informed-consent document stating that Robert Myall, BDS, MD, would have overall responsibility for Schmidt's care. Myall is a professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery at OHSU and Dr. Kupfer's supervising professor.

Schmidt was not told that Dr. Kupfer had limited training in extracting ankylosed teeth or that Dr. Myall "would not be physically present for the essential parts of the surgery to supervise the operation," the suit said.

Dr. Kupfer recognized that the mental nerve was close to the surgical site and needed to be protected during the procedure. Dr. Myall came into the room as the procedure was underway and called Jeremiah Johnson, DDS, MD, over to discuss the situation. It was decided that Dr. Johnson, a fifth-year resident, would extract the tooth in fragments.

Dr. Myall failed to see that Drs. Kupfer and Johnson used a round burr "in a fashion and at a depth that was dangerously close to the mental nerve and its branches," the suit said. Removing the entire tooth left the mental nerve and its branches permanently damaged.

"Dr. Myall was the supervising professor of Drs. Kupfer and Johnson ... and as such, was responsible that the procedures that they performed were done within the standard of care expected of a reasonable and prudent dentist and doctor under the same or similar circumstances," the suit said.

Schmidt left OHSU feeling pain and dysesthesia in her lip and lower jaw, which continued for the next month, preventing her from eating, speaking, or sleeping normally, according to the complaint.

In April, Schmidt went to an oral surgeon who told her that the mental nerve and its branches had been irreversibly damaged and that the "injury could not be repaired," the suit said.

Although Dr. Myall said he was "present for the entire procedure," he later explained that that meant he was in the clinic, not necessarily in the room where the surgery took place.

In an email to DrBicuspid.com, OHSU spokeswoman Tamara Hargens-Bradley declined to comment on the settlement but said, "OHSU remains committed to providing high-quality care in an environment that protects patient rights, privacy, and confidentiality."

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