Plaintiff Prevails Where Eventual Injury Was Not Listed as a Risk of the Surgery

By Michael Zerres

Oral Surgery Case Involving Removal of Wisdom Teeth

In Harris v. Hecht, decided on January 23, 2007, a dental patient’s malpractice verdict was allowed to stand following an appeal by the doctor.

Mr. Harris had undergone surgery to remove his lower wisdom teeth. Prior to the surgery, he was shown a 12 minute videotape entitled “Informed Consent For Patients” which described the procedure and describing risks of the surgery, which included numbness to the lip, chin and tingue. The video also referred to potential injury to the inferior alveolar nerve, a sensory nerve in the lower jaw.

The patient, Mr. Harris, however, sustained an injury to lingual nerve, which controls sensation to the tongue. This injury was not described as a risk of surgery on the doctor’s videotape. As a result of the injury, the patient had to undergo nerve repair and it was discovered that the lingual enrve had been transected. Even after the nerve repair, Mr. Harris continued to suffer from numbness on the left side of tongue, leaving him without a sense of taste on that side and causing him to often bite his tongue while chewing food.

At trial and on appeal, the patient prevailed, as the defense claim that injury to the lingual nerve was a known risk of wisdom tooth surgery was not accepted.

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