A recent Texas dental malpractice decision concerned a plaintiff who sued a dentist for dental malpractice, breach of warranty, medical battery, and other causes of action. She claimed that in 2012, she’d asked her dentist to repair her damaged teeth. He told her she needed full dental implants and tooth extractions. She had a tooth surgery but continued to feel pain and discomfort afterward. Four months afterward, she reported her pain to the dentist. He then removed bone spurs from her mouth.
He also performed a second surgery to replace the implants with lower and upper dentures. After the surgery, he told her that her dentures didn’t fit right and suggested taking more dental impressions. He told her that the original wax impressions of her mouth were accurate, but the resulting dentures didn’t fit right, and he’d need to submit new impressions. He made new impressions, and in the following month, he surgically implanted six mini-implants in her upper mouth and lower mouth.
Later, she still had pain and got an infection. She went to another dentist several months later. He diagnosed her with having infected dental implants, infected root tips, and badly fitting dentures. He removed the dentures and put in temporary ones. A month later, she had a fifth implant surgery, and her tongue was cut, which caused pain for the next eight months. She sued the first dentist for dental malpractice, claiming he’d breached his duty as a health care professional by putting improper dentures into her mouth twice. She asserted his breaches of the standard of care had legally caused her to suffer serious economic, emotional, and physical harm.
She claimed the dentist owed a duty to use ordinary care in examining and repairing her teeth. He’d failed to meet that duty by not installing dentures into her mouth and not informing her of the badly fitting dentures he’d installed. His negligent acts and omissions were the legal cause of her infection, the need to undergo more surgery, and the cut on her tongue. Among her other arguments were that the dentist had falsely represented he’d repaired her teeth, constituting fraud, and that he’d violated the DTPA. She claimed she’d suffered mental anguish and missed work, and she asked for actual and exemplary damages of $200,000 – $1,000,000.
The dentist responded by providing a general denial, claiming affirmative defenses, and filing for summary judgment. He argued that all of the claims were basically health care liability claims and were barred by the two-year statute of limitations. The plaintiff argued she didn’t discover her injuries until March 6, 2013, and she’d filed on March 3, 2015. However, she didn’t provide any evidence in connection with her response. The summary judgment motion was granted.
On appeal, the plaintiff argued it was a mistake to grant the dentist summary judgment because many of her causes of action, including her claims of negligence, medical battery, DTPA violations, and lack of informed consent, were independent from the dental malpractice claim.
The appellate court explained that a health care liability claim couldn’t be put forward as a different cause of action in order to avoid the requirements of health care liability claims under Texas Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code ch. 74. The essence of her DTPA claims was that the dentist, in providing dental services in his professional capacity, didn’t provide her with properly fitting dentures and didn’t recognize or failed to inform her about her improperly fitting dentures.
The lower court’s judgment was affirmed.
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