Dental patient awarded $1M for bungled oral surgery

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A jury in Virginia awarded $1 million in damages to a dental patient who accused an oral surgeon and the practice where he worked of extracting more teeth than she had consented to have pulled, according to a story published on May 28 in the Winchester Star.

Dr. Eric Starley. Image courtesy of Winchester Oral Surgery Center.Dr. Eric Starley. Image courtesy of Winchester Oral Surgery Center.

Christine Frey, who sued the oral surgeon who performed the procedure, Dr. Eric D. Starley of Winchester Oral Surgery Center in Winchester, VA, was awarded $1 million in compensatory damages following a three-day jury trial in Winchester Circuit Court of the 26th Judicial Circuit of Virginia.

However, jurors did not award Frey punitive damages. Frey had sought $6 million in damages and $1 million in punitive damages, according to the story.

In July 2022, Frey was referred to the center to have 12 lower teeth extracted, mandibular tori removed, and to have two implants placed for overdentures. Frey alleged that she visited Starley two more times before she had her first procedure, which was to have two lower teeth extracted. Starley removed these two teeth, according to the story.

In January 2023, Frey signed a consent form to have the rest of her lower teeth and the mandibular tori removed and to have two implants placed. For this procedure, she was placed under anesthesia and was unconscious during the surgery.

When she awoke from the surgery, Frey claimed that Starley told her he had removed every upper and lower tooth in her mouth. She had not consented to having any of her nine upper teeth removed, according to the story.

Starley's attorney claimed the oral surgeon admitted to the mistake, was remorseful, and an attempt was made to make the situation right by offering to pay the more than $130,000 to have the dental work needed to fix her smile. But he alleged that Frey stopped communicating with him.

Also, Starley admitted that he misheard Frey. He reportedly thought he heard Frey say that she wanted every tooth extracted, according to the story.

Frey reportedly admitted to not taking Starley's call and turned down the center's offer to have any dental work she wanted for free because she didn't trust having any other procedures done at the practice.

During the trial, Frey's attorney stated that the botched procedure has traumatized her and that she will require expensive dental work for the rest of her life, according to the story.

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