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Fiorucci v. Chinn

August 5, 2020

The Supreme Court of Virginia held that a patient’s awareness of the risks involved in a dental procedure was not a defense to a dental procedure negligently performed. As such, informed consent was neither relevant nor material to the standard of care.

Plaintiff had been referred to the Defendant health care provider, an oral surgeon, for evaluation of three of his wisdom teeth. The Defendant determined that Plaintiff’s wisdom teeth were decaying and recommended extraction. In performing surgery on one tooth, Defendant perforated bone adjacent to Plaintiff’s left sinus, leaving a large opening. With respect to another tooth, Defendant encountered severe bleeding and halted the surgery. Defendant did not attempt extraction of the third tooth. Plaintiff experienced severe bleeding from his nose and numbness in his jaw, teeth, gum, lip and chin as well as sinus pain. Though the symptoms related to the hole in the sinus resolved, Plaintiff was left with permanent numbness in his lower jaw due to nerve damage.

At trial, Plaintiff asserted that Defendant misdiagnosed his wisdom teeth as being decayed when in fact they were in a benign resorption process, meaning they were in the harmless process of being incorporated into the surrounding bone. Plaintiff presented expert testimony that Defendant breached the standard of care in misdiagnosing the condition and recommending an unnecessary surgery. Plaintiff successfully moved to exclude two informed consent documents from admission at trial. The jury then found for the Plaintiff.

The Supreme Court of Virginia affirmed the trial court, holding that the Plaintiff’s awareness of the risks of the extractions was not a defense against his claim that the defendant misdiagnosed the condition and negligently performed the surgery.