March 2018 

Las Vegas: Webster and Houston Secure Defense Verdict for Oral Surgeon

In March 2018, HPS attorneys Ken Webster and Ian Houston won a defense verdict for a Las Vegas oral surgeon in a case that had been pending since 2014. In the case, the plaintiff alleged that the oral surgeon failed to take a biopsy of an oral abrasion in 2009/2010 and that in August 2013, the plaintiff was diagnosed with oral squamous cell carcinoma and underwent multiple surgeries, including extraction of multiple teeth, an initial removal of a margin of the jaw bone, subsequent additional partial mandibulectomy and removal of lymph nodes.

The plaintiff alleged that the standard of care called for a biopsy of the abrasion in 2009/2010 notwithstanding the clinical improvement of the affected area during the defendant’s care and treatment, a concern for bisphosphonate-related osteonecrosis of the jaw (“BRONJ”, which contraindicates disturbance of the area in the face of documented improvement), and years of stable presentation of the area after the patient unilaterally stopped seeing the defendant. 

The defense argued that the improvement of the abrasion after treatment that would not be used to treat cancer, coupled with expert testimony that cancerous or pre-cancerous lesions do not simply improve without treatment geared toward cancer, established that there was no cancer or pre-cancerous condition present in 2009/2010, some three years prior to the plaintiff’s subsequent diagnosis. Moreover, with the suspicion for BRONJ, taking a biopsy and thereby insulting the affected area, in the light of improvement of the abrasion was not required by the standard of care and, in fact, would be contraindicated. Further, the rapid progression of the clinical presentation in 2013 as well as pathology slides from the cancer-affected area removed in 2013 revealed an aggressive cancerous process that would not have stayed dormant for approximately three years, confirming that the condition was not present at the time of the defendant’s care. Indeed, the cancer that presented in 2013 was actually noted to be different in location and appearance when compared to the documentation of the abrasion in 2009/2010 and the years following.

At the end of the week-long trial, the plaintiff requested past medical expenses in excess of $137,000 in addition to the full amount of non-economic damages permitted by Nevada law. The jury deliberated for approximately 53 minutes, agreed with the defense, and returned a unanimous defense verdict for our client.