New Jersey Family Awarded $11M In Med Mal Case

A New Jersey family was awarded $11 million in a medical malpractice / wrongful death case after an oral surgeon removed the wisdom teeth of a 21 year old with a rare medical condition without consulting with his primary care physician beforehand. The patient died the day what should have been routine surgery.

Medical malpractice / wrongful death

According to news reports, 21 year old Francis Keller had a rare, hereditary condition that caused his immune system to react to trauma to his face or hands by swelling. However, he was having some dental issues in 2005 and visited his dentist, Dr. John Madaris. Madaris advised Keller that his teeth needed a cleaning, which could be done in that office, and also advised him to visit an oral surgeon about having his wisdom teeth removed. He provided Keller with the names of two surgeons in the area and Keller chose Doctor George Flugrad.

The next week, Keller returned to Madaris’ office for the cleaning. However, when he told the hygienist about his medical condition, she refused to clean his teeth without a written consent form from Keller’s doctor.

Keller then went to oral surgeon’s office to discuss having his wisdom teeth removed. While he also told Flugrad about his medical condition, the surgeon decided to extract Keller’s wisdom teeth without consulting with Keller’s primary care physician. Keller died a day after the surgery and his family sued the surgeon for medical malpractice. A jury awarded them $11 million.

Physician’s standard of care

The issue of what standard of care the physicians should be held to was critical in this case. Both sides brought in medical experts to testify, but the attorney hired by Keller’s family was able to show that Flugrad had a duty to contact Keller’s primary care physician and breached that duty. Dr. Madaris, Keller’s dentist, was held to the same standard of care, but was cleared of any negligence because his office required written consent from the primary care physician beforehand. While the jury also apportioned some of the blame on Keller himself for allowing Flugrad to perform the surgery, more of the blame was apportioned to Flugrad.

Medical malpractice cases often rely upon expert testimony. An experienced medical malpractice attorney will know what types of experts might be needed to increase your chances of winning your lawsuit – and more importantly – where to find those experts. If you’ve been injured due to the malpractice of medical personnel, contact an experienced New Jersey medical malpractice attorney to discuss your situation and evaluate your options. Consultations are free, without obligation and are strictly confidential.