New York: Medical Malpractice Defense Verdict for Oral Surgeon in Nassau County Supreme Court

05/10/12

Robert Fitch recently defended an oral surgeon in a malpractice case where the surgeon was accused of failing to diagnose and treat the plaintiff’s infection, which resulted in a development of cavernous sinus thrombosis, a rare and often fatal disease with a 50% death rate.  The plaintiff lost the sight in one of his eyes, continued to experience pain and was completely disabled from work.

Plaintiff was a 53-year-old male diabetic when he came to our client, an oral surgeon at a local practice facility.  Plaintiff presented after being evaluated by the co-defendant, a general dentist.  The co-defendant referred plaintiff to our client for removal of a compromised tooth.   After the tooth was removed, plaintiff returned to our client claiming that he believed that there were pieces of tooth still in his jaw from the extraction.  However, x-rays showed that the tooth was properly and completely extracted and the extraction site was healing well.  Subsequently, plaintiff went to two different hospitals and it was eventually determined what the infection was.  The second hospital diagnosed cavernous sinus thrombosis. Plaintiff underwent months of treatment and suffered loss of vision in one eye.   Plaintiff brought suit against the co-defendant, general dentist, our client the oral surgeon, the dental practice and the first hospital where he received treatment.

Plaintiff claimed approximately $200,000 in lost wages and established $157,000 in special damages.  He requested $2,270,000 from the jury at trial, plus an unspecified amount for plaintiff’s wife’s loss of services.  The general dentist and hospital settled during the trial. 

The defense theory focused on plaintiff’s uncontrolled diabetic condition, which facilitated the contraction of the rare fungal infection that caused him to lose his vision.  In addition, plaintiff withheld his uncontrolled diabetic condition from our client, which affected the treatment he rendered.  Furthermore, the defense established that plaintiff’s complaints to our client were typical complaints made by persons with a toothache and that our client responded properly and within the standard of care required of an oral surgeon.   The jury returned a defense verdict.

Robert Fitch, a partner in the New York office, concentrates his practice in the defense of product liability, professional and medical malpractice, commercial motor vehicle and construction litigation.  He is admitted to practice in the state and federal courts of New York as well as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Bob has tried over 100 cases to verdict in the state and federal courts of New York. He has been rated AV by Martindale-Hubbell.