Posted on Feb 07, 2007
Miami medical secretary Deborah Van Houdt won a whopping malpractice verdict against her longtime dentist, Dr. John Hastings -- more than $2.8 million.
Van Houdt, 45, a Hastings patient for 17 years, lost eight teeth from his negligent care. (Most people have 28 teeth, not including wisdom teeth). She will require numerous surgeries -- sinus lifts, bone grafts and multiple implants -- over the next three years, says her attorney, Joel A. Kaplan.
'Dr. Hastings created the perfect storm in this lady's oral cavity,' Kaplan says. ``A wasteland of devastation.'
During one of Hastings' root canals on Van Houdt, he broke off an endodontic file and left a part inside the tooth. During tooth extractions, he broke off the root tips of two teeth, leaving them embedded in the bone. 'A gateway to infection,' Kaplan says.
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Mindy Glazer ruled, pre-trial, that Hastings was negligent. Glazer then presided over a four-day trial on damages. The jury -- five women, one man -- heard about the rampant decay and infections. Her new dentist, Dr. Raymond Franconi, periodontist Dr. Scott Ross, and oral surgeon Dr. William Means, all testified. Franconi has worked on Van Houdt since June '04 to save her remaining teeth.
Attorneys Jonathan Abel and Steven Lury defended.
Kaplan asked for $1.1 million. Jurors awarded way more -- $2,811,867.89, including $2 million in future pain and suffering.
'The largest verdict I've ever heard of in a case involving dentistry where the plaintiff did not suffer death or gross disfigurement,' says Dr. Richard Souviron, a forensic dentist in Coral Gables who testifies as an expert witness nationwide.
Hastings, 67, now practices in Palm Beach Gardens and Vero Beach. He did not respond to requests for comment. He is considering an appeal, Lury says.