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Lacerations claim goes to trial

03 November 2022
Suzanne Tate, Litigation Solicitor at Dental Protection reports on a claim that involved the witness statement of the assisting dental nurse.

Our member Dr C treated Mr U for a filling; the treatment was uneventful and Mr U left the practice. He later alleged that he noticed blood dripping from his mouth 40 minutes later while at home, coming from two lacerations to the inside of his lower lip. It was also alleged Dr C caused the lacerations during the dental filling procedure, with a rotating drill or brush.

Mr U made a claim against Dr C. Both Dr C and the assisting dental nurse provided witness evidence that no laceration or bleeding was seen before Mr U left the practice. Mr U’s own account was that he and his partner did not notice any bleeding until later at home.

Both experts agreed at the joint discussion stage that the lacerations would bleed immediately and that there was no evidence of any bleeding lacerations during or immediately after the appointment.

Mr U was invited to discontinue his claim when the experts’ joint statement was received; however, he continued to pursue the claim to a trial. Mr U’s expert remained of the view that the most likely explanation for the lacerations would be during  the removal of a rotating drill or brush from Mr U’s mouth, by our member, before the bur or brush had stopped rotating. Our expert maintained his stance, that bleeding would have been immediately apparent if this was the cause and a much more likely explanation for the lacerations was that Mr U bit his own lip while at home, before the effects of the local anaesthetic had worn off.

Dr C was concerned that Dental Protection would take a commercial view of the very low value claim, and seek to resolve it to avoid the costs of a one-day trial, which took place in person during a COVID-19 lockdown. It was assumed Mr U and his representatives also expected Dr C to make some nominal offer to avoid the costs of trial.

However, we fully supported Dr C and successfully defended the claim to trial. The judge heard the factual accounts of Mr U and his partner, Dr C and the assisting dental nurse and experts for both parties, and the claim was dismissed. While Dr C made a very good witness, it certainly helped his defence that the assisting dental nurse that day was willing to attend court and confirm his account that no injury, bleeding or complaint occurred before Mr U left the practice.


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