Final Verdict: No Negligence In Oral Surgery
Movies and TV shows dramatize the spectacle of a “hung jury” on a daily basis. The idea is a simple one: the jury is supposed to be the trier of fact, the decision-maker in challenging or uncertain situations. While the judge is responsible for making decisions pertaining to law, the jury must reach a conclusion about the facts of a particular case. If the jury is unable to reach an agreement after extended deliberation and discussion, the judge may elect to declare a “mistrial” in which the whole proceeding must start over from the beginning with a new jury.
The time and expense of declaring a mistrial is one of the reasons why it is rarely done. In most cases, a jury can be motivated to reach a verdict, either by review of the evidence or by strong encouragement (and, in some cases, admonishment) from the judge. One of the basic principles of our legal system is that truth may be ascertained from the available facts, given sufficient time and effort, and so juries are expected to reach a verdict in all but the most intractable of situations.
It may have seemed to the parties in Gloria Lemus v. Kouroush Mehreabian and Maryland Dental Center P.C. that a hung jury was inevitable. The trial had lasted only four days, and yet the jury deliberated and discussed on and on: first for a full day, then for 30 hours, then for 40 hours, and finally for 44 hours. If nothing else, it was clear that the attorneys had both argued well for their side.
The case had started in November of 2012, when 39-year-old Gloria Lemus saw Dr. Kourosh Mehrabian for the placement of a dental implant. In a dental implant, a missing tooth is replaced with a metal post that is embedded permanently into the jaw, with the ceramic tooth screwed into the post from the top. Dr. Mehrabian held a certification in implantology and was considered an expert in his field.
However, immediately after the surgery, Gloria felt numbness in the area of the implant. Two days later, she reported it to Dr. Mehrabian, who continued to treat her for eight months. A dentist she visited three years later informed her that there could be a possible disturbance of her trigeminal nerve in the lower jaw, resulting in permanent numbness around the site.
Gloria retained the services of attorney Relinda Louisy and brought a lawsuit against Dr. Mehrabian and his center for medical malpractice, dental malpractice, oral surgery malpractice, surgical error, negligent treatment, and nerve damage. She argued, through her attorney and the experts hired by the attorney, that the implant chosen by Dr. Mehrabian was too long and had impinged on her trigeminal nerve, causing the injury. The experts claimed that the improperly-sized implant post was the result of incorrect measurements taken by Dr. Mehrabian prior to the oral surgery.
Experts hired by Dr. Mehrabian disagreed, stating that both the surgery and the post-surgical treatment complied with the standard of dental care. They also pointed out Gloria’s complaints of numbness and pain decreased following the surgery, and claimed that Gloria had visited numerous dental specialists before finding one who would back up her claims of suffering nerve damage.
After 45 hours of deliberation, the jury finally returned a verdict of no negligence on the part of Dr. Mehrabian. Cohen & Cohen