A DeKalb County Georgia State Court jury rendered a $ 2.8 Million Dollar verdict in favor of a Plaintiff against the employer of Dentist Dr. James Cauley of Coast Dental of Georgia. In February, 2008, Haley Buice, Plaintiff, age 33 and a mother with four children, began treatment at Defendant Coast Dental of Georgia and was treated by their employee dentist Dr. Cauley.
It was recommended that the Plaintiff have implant veneers and when the procedure was performed it was not performed to the standard of care that is used in the same or similar circumstances. Furthermore, Defendant Coast Dental did not complete the work when Dr. Cauley left during treatment of Ms. Buice in May of 2009 due to his alleged drug use that is further discussed herein below.
This prompted Ms. Buice to seek treatment with another dentist to remedy the issues left by the Defendant Coast, and for the Plaintiff to investigate further into the allegations of Dr. Cauley’s drug abuse that ultimately led to the Plaintiff to amend her complaint against Defendant Coastal for its negligence in hiring, retaining, and supervising of Dr. Cauley, and, for punitive damages.
As the Plaintiff prepared for trial, it became more and more evident that Dr. Cauley had a history of drug abuse making this case more than just a straightforward case of malpractice dentistry. For example, the Plaintiff’s additional charges against Coast were substantiated by the fact that Dr. Cauley was hired in 2007 in light of a positive test for Valium during a drug screen performed pre-employment, and an overdose five (5) weeks after his employment of Fentanyl, plus using nitrous oxide that was supposed to be used on patients.
It should be duly noted that Defendant Coast Dental is not a small dental operation and has an excess of 130 dental offices reaching states as far as California including Florida, Georgia, and Nevada.
The Defendant argued during motions in pre-trial that Dr. Cauley’s drug abuse was not material and that it was actually prejudicial to the case and they cited a Georgia 2011 Court of Appeals case Williams v. Booker, 310 Ga. App. 209 where the court reversed a trial court’s decision that evidence of alcohol abuse by a Doctor in a medical malpractice case was admissible. The Defendant further argued that there was no evidence that substantiated that Dr. Cauley was, in fact, abusing the medications when he was treating the Plaintiff, and that the Plaintiff’s injuries may have been caused by pre-existing conditions instead of any wrong doing on Dr. Cauley’s part.
Prior to trial Dr. Cauley, who was initially named in the complaint, settled with the Plaintiff for a confidential amount leaving Coast as the lone Defendant in the lawsuit.
This is where this case becomes very interesting. The Honorable Stacey Hydrick, at the request of the defense, agreed to a trifurcated trial whereby the trial would take place in three different parts as follows:
1.) Phase One would focus on whether or not Dr. Cauley did, in fact, commit malpractice of dentistry, and, if so, then what should the amount of damages be to compensate the Plaintiff for the same.
2.) Phase Two would involve the introduction of evidence by the Plaintiff of Dr. Cauley’s drug abuse to substantiate the claim of negligent hiring by Defendant Coast.
3.) Phase Three would focus on the punitive damages claim.
Surprisingly, the jury, after a four (4) day trial of just Phase One, which focused very heavily on the Plaintiff’s pain and suffering, and after only forty (40) minutes of deliberation, awarded the Plaintiff $ 2.8M in damages. This particular outcome encouraged a settlement from Defendant Coast for a confidential amount on the entire case including Phases Two and Three which were never tried or heard by the jury.
At Julie A. Rice, Attorney at Law, & Affiliates, we are experts and representing people who have been subjected to dental malpractice and injured as a result. If you or a loved one have been injured or died as result of the negligence of a dentist, dental company, any dental staff, or the like, then please Contact Us for your free legal consultation.
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