A Pennsylvania Woman’s Root Canal Went Awry, and Her Lawsuit Did Too Because She Litigated Without Legal Representation

dentistFor many people, trips to the dentist are never fun. That is especially true if you are headed to the dentist’s office to get a root canal procedure. What could be worse than that, you might wonder. Well, one possibility is that your dentist commits malpractice on you while you are undergoing the root canal. While people’s fear of and aversion to dental visits is grist for many jokes, any type of malpractice is the exact opposite of a laughing matter. Whether you have been a victim of malpractice during a dental filling or open-heart surgery or anything in between, you should protect your rights fully and properly by relying on the representation of a skilled Pennsylvania medical malpractice attorney.

Any malpractice case, whether the injuries you suffered as a result were merely painful or were totally life-altering, is serious. If your harm was substantial enough to motivate you to consider taking your provider to court, it is serious enough to retain knowledgeable counsel to handle your case. Medical malpractice actions involve many steps. Some of the most important ones may be involved in the pre-trial process, including the amassing of evidence. Included in that is the retaining of an expert witness (or witnesses). There are many other procedural elements that can trip up the uninformed.

Carol was a dental patient who alleged that she was injured due to her dentist’s malpractice during a root canal. Carol went forward in her case without a lawyer. As the case proceeded, the defense asked the judge to throw out the patient’s certificate of merit. (A certificate of merit is a mandatory filing in a malpractice case in which the injured person or her attorney declares that a professional in the field has concluded that the provider did not meet the required standard of care.)

The judge threw out Carol’s certificate and gave her 30 days to file a proper one. The problem with the first certificate was that it only stated what a second dentist did to treat her issue; it did not state that the first dentist was negligent or failed to meet the standard of care required. Thirty days came and went with no certificate. The dentist filed a motion asking the judge to dismiss the case. The trial court sent the motion for a hearing in September. Carol did not show. The court treated the motion as uncontested and threw out the case entirely. Carol’s problem was that she needed extra time but did not go about asking in the correct way. She needed to make a request to the court seeking extra time. Instead, she simply took her request to the Prothonotary’s Office, which was the wrong place to file such things.

A few weeks later, Carol filed an appeal of the dismissal. Her appeal failed for similar reasons. Her brief asserted that her first dentist committed malpractice by ordering only x-rays and never ordering any CTs or MRIs to attempt to diagnose Carol’s issues, which allegedly led to 18 months of problems. The flaw with this brief was that the entirety of this argument was placed outside the argument section of her appeals court brief. The rules require a party filing an appeal to divide each argument into its own section and give each its own heading. Carol’s appellate brief fell badly short of the rules, so the court concluded that she had waived her arguments and upheld the ruling for the dentist.

In other words, this unfortunate patient, acting as her own attorney, made crucial procedural mistakes at almost every step along the way. To ensure that your interests and your right to receive compensation are properly advanced in the legal system, rely upon the experienced Pennsylvania personal injury attorneys at Needle Law Firm. Our attorneys have an average of 20+ years of experience providing dedicated legal representation to personal injury and workers’ compensation claimants.

Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation by calling (570) 344-1266.

More blog posts:

Pennsylvania Family Recovers Almost $6M in Wrongful Death Case Arising from an Incorrectly Inserted Feeding Tube, Pennsylvania Accident Lawyer Blog, February 9, 2018

Pennsylvania Court Affirms Judgment Excluding Expert Testimony in Medical Malpractice Case, Pennsylvania Accident Lawyer Blog, October 17, 2015

Photo Credit: rgerber, [CC0 License], via Pixabay