Piccuta Wins $500,000 Dollar Jury Verdict in Dental Malpractice Lawsuit Against Carmel Dentist
Piccuta Law Group has started 2023 with a bang. Attorney Charles Tony Piccuta just completed a jury trial in a dental malpractice case that spanned two weeks. The result was a jury verdict in favor of the firm’s client.
The jury awarded the firm’s client $500,000 in pain and suffering damages. The jury found that the defendant dentist committed malpractice and was guilty of professional negligence. The jury awarded $135,000 in past damages and $365,000 in future damages.
The client is entitled to pre-judgment interest and case costs. Piccuta has filed a motion requesting an additional award of over $64,000 for these amounts. This total is comprised of over $40,000 in pre-judgment interest, approximately $17,000 in expert witness fees and other cases costs.
The case is entitled Huda Khalil v. Rafid Khamis, DDS and assigned case # 19CV004700. The case was tried before the Honorable Carrie M. Panetta in Department 14 of the Monterey County Superior Court. The case was filed in 2019 and took over three years to bring to trial.
The trial commenced on January 9, 2023. The jury came back with its verdict on January 20, 2023. The judgment was entered on January 31, 2023. The dentist will not be appealing the verdict.
The Uncontested Facts Established in the Dental Malpractice Lawsuit
In January 2019, the client was a twenty-one-year-old student at CSUMB. That month, she first met with the dentist at his dental office in Monterey. At that appointment, the dentist told the client that both of her bottom wisdom teeth needed to be removed. On March 1, 2019, the client underwent the lower wisdom teeth extraction procedure. Afterward, the dentist told the client that the removal of the wisdom teeth was without incident. The dentist did not take any post-procedure x-rays at that time.
The client had pain, numbness and swelling on the left side of her face that persisted after the procedure. She also had difficulty opening her mouth. She followed up with the dentist more than once.
On April 5, 2019, the client saw the dentist and he took a dental x-ray of the extraction site of the lower left wisdom tooth. The dentist told her the x-ray did not indicate any problems and looked normal. The client grew suspicious of what the dentist was telling her and sought out a second opinion.
On April 18, 2019, the client met with dentist Dr. Michael Faktor. Dr. Faktor told her that he suspected the numbness on the left side of her face was due to nerve damage. He took a panoramic x-ray. The panoramic x-ray showed that the client’s lower left jaw was fractured and that the majority of her right wisdom tooth had not been extracted. Dr. Faktor then referred her to an oral surgeon, Dr. Perry Silva.
The client met with Dr. Silva. He confirmed her lower left jaw was fractured and that she had nerve damage on the left side of her face. He attributed the fracture and nerve damage to the extraction procedure. He scheduled the client for an open reduction internal fixation surgery to see if her lower left jaw could be realigned.
On May 3, 2019, Dr. Silva attempted the surgery. However, the bone had already fused out of alignment and could not be separated. The surgery was unsuccessful and the client’s mouth was wired shut for 3-4 weeks where she remained on a liquid diet.
The Allegations and Claims Advanced by Our Attorneys Against Dentist Khamis
We advanced the following allegations and contended the following facts at trial:
In January 2019, the client went to the dentist’s office for a general cleaning and with no complaints of wisdom teeth problems. The client believed the dentist when he said she needed her wisdom teeth removed. During the extraction procedure, she heard a loud crack when he removed her lower left wisdom tooth. From that point on, she was unable to keep her mouth open.
After the procedure, the dentist told her that the surgery had gone as expected and without any problems. The dentist did not tell her that he left the majority of her lower right wisdom tooth behind. The dentist also did not tell her about any issue with removing her lower left wisdom tooth.
During the extraction procedure, she heard a loud crack when he removed her lower left wisdom tooth.
In the weeks that followed, the client had pain, swelling and numbness on the left side of her face. She also had problems opening her mouth. She returned to the dentist’s office 3-4 times. Each time he told her that everything was fine and that her recovery was typical.
At one point, the client researched the numbness in her face and learned she likely had nerve damage. She addressed this with the dentist. The dentist told her there was no way he damaged her nerve and that it may take her six months for the numbness to go away. This is not a normal recovery period, but for nerve damage. At no time did the dentist tell her she had nerve damage.
The first time the client learned that she had a lower left broken jaw, and that her right wisdom tooth was mostly left in her mouth, was after she sought a second opinion. The client claimed the following injuries and symptoms:
- altered bite (malocclusion)
- permanent numbness in her lower left lip and chin
- alveolar nerve damage
- malunion of her left jaw-bone resulting in asymmetry in her face
- pain and aches in her jaw when attempting to eat certain foods
- inability to fully open her mouth
- formation of a lisp
- altered smile
- emotional distress
Dentist Khamis’ Contentions and Defenses Presented in the Malpractice Lawsuit
The dentist presented the following allegations and contentions at trial:
In January 2019, the client presented to his office specifically complaining of pain and problems with her wisdom teeth. As a result, the extraction procedure was scheduled. The dentist removed the lower left wisdom tooth without any problems. He elected to leave the majority of the lower right wisdom tooth in place because he had concerns that removing it could lead to nerve damage.
After the procedure, he told the client that he had left part of the lower right wisdom tooth behind. He also gave her his personal cell phone number and told her to call with any problems. The client did not call his cell phone.
The client only called his office one time after the procedure complaining of pain and swelling. The client did not comply with taking the post-procedure medications he prescribed to reduce the swelling. At no time did the client complain about numbness to him. The client then failed to show at a scheduled appointment in the middle of March.
The client finally returned to his office on April 5, 2019, at which time an x-ray was taken of the lower left wisdom tooth extraction site. This x-ray proved that her jaw was not fractured at that time. As such, the client’s jaw fractured at some point during the thirteen days between her last appointment with him on April 5, 2019 and the panoramic x-ray taken on April 18, 2019 by a different dentist which showed the fracture. The fracture and nerve damage were not caused by him and were not his fault.
The dentist did not misrepresent or conceal anything from the client. The client was not forthright regarding her complaints about her continued issues and symptoms. The client’s continued complaints and symptoms were not consistent with the medical science.
The Course of the Dental Malpractice Lawsuit Prior to Trial
The lawsuit was heavily contested by the dentist’s insurance company and insurance appointed attorney, Jim Wager-Smith. Piccuta and Wager-Smith had several disputes throughout the case. This included discovery disputes and even resulted in the defense attorney stopping Piccuta from taking the sworn statement of the dentist.
The most the insurance company offered to pay to settle the lawsuit in the three years prior to trial was $9,999.
The two sides fought about everything in the case. This included several motions and evidentiary issues. The two sides especially fought about the value of the case. The insurance company for the dentist was unwilling to offer any meaningful compensation throughout the course of the three years the case was litigated. Instead, the insurance company elected to pay their defense attorney to defend a case they would ultimately lose.
The most the insurance company offered to pay to settle the lawsuit in the three years prior to trial was $9,999. On the afternoon of the last day before the trial started, the insurance company offered $75,000. Piccuta and his client rejected it and went to court to hold both the dentist and his insurance company accountable for their actions.
The Verdict Was Reported on By Several Publications and Media Outlets
Dental malpractice verdicts are not obtained often. As a result, the verdict was widely reported in numerous legal publications and periodicals. It was also reported in local newspapers including the February 17, 2023 edition of the Carmel Pinecone. Read about the verdict in the Carmel Pinecone on Page 6 here.
Contact the Piccuta Law Group if You Need a Skilled Trial Lawyer
There are plenty of attorneys out there. They are in every paper, on every billboard and on all over the internet. This is especially true when it comes to personal injury attorneys. However, there are very few winning trial lawyers with proven results. Piccuta is one of the few who regularly tries cases and wins them. He has a proven track record. He has obtained jury verdicts in both state and federal court in high stakes matters worth millions of dollars. If you need a serious attorney to handle a difficult and important case, contact the Piccuta Law Group today. Do not risk your case with a lesser attorney.
About the author: The content on this page was written by California personal injury attorney and civil rights lawyer Charles “Tony” Piccuta. Piccuta graduated with honors from Indiana University-Maurer School of Law in Bloomington, Indiana (Previously ranked Top 35 US News & World Report). Piccuta took and passed the State bars of Arizona, California, Illinois and Nevada (all on the first try). He actively practices throughout California and Arizona. He is a winning trial attorney that regularly handles serious personal injury cases and civil rights lawsuits. He has obtained six and seven figure verdicts in both state and federal court. He has been recognized by Super Lawyers for six years straight. He is AV Rated by Martindale Hubble. He is a member of the Consumer Attorneys of California, American Association for Justice, National Police Accountability Project, Arizona Association of Justice, and many local county and City bar associations.
Disclaimer: The information on this web site is attorney advertising and is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice. Reading and relying upon the content on this page does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, you should contact our law firm for a free consultation and to discuss your specific case and issues.