Elizabeth Smith was a young woman when she sought treatment from the Sexton Dental Clinic located in Florence, South Carolina. Her age at the time is a bit fuzzy: the Daily Telegraph in the United Kingdom reported her age as 38, whereas the New Daily News, on August 22, 2009, reported her age as 28. Nonetheless, at issue were three problematic teeth that needed to come out.
The extractions were carried out as planned. However, to the surprise of dental malpractice lawyers and just about everyone else, 13 additional teeth were extracted from Smith's upper mouth, for a total of 16.
The extractions represented all of Smith's natural teeth from her upper jaw. In a subsequent dental malpractice lawsuit, the plaintiff's attorney maintained that the clinic attempted to cover up the error on Smith's chart.
The procedure was undertaken in 2006. Three years later a jury awarded Smith $2.4 million. The settlement worked out to about $150,000 for each tooth that was wrongfully extracted. Smith, who had yet to have her teeth replaced at the time of the settlement verdict, faced reconstructive surgery estimated by various sources as costing between $80,000 and $96,000.
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At the time of the jury award in 2009, Sexton had indicated it planned to appeal the verdict finding for the plaintiff in the medical malpractice dental lawsuit.
Tooth extraction can foster a variety of issues—from the appearance of the mouth cosmetically, to the shape of the jaw and the capacity for, and quality of speech. There was no information at the time as to what Smith did for a living. However, even a planned extraction can have an impact. An unplanned extraction, such as the one suffered by Smith and the subject of the dental malpractice lawsuit, can lead to incalculable consequences.