Thursday, November 10, 2022

Sullo, Moriarty Secure $95.5M Houston Jury Verdict in Dental Malpractice Case

Improperly Sedated 4 Year-Old Suffers Brain Damage After Dental Visit

Houston Law Firm Sullo & Sullo recently won big—to the tune of $95.5 million—in a Harris County civil court case. The case revolved around four-year-old Nevaeh Hall, who was improperly sedated and restrained by a local dentist in 2016, resulting in irreversible brain damage.

Attorney Andrew Sullo, along with associate attorneys Kathryn Mecredy and Jim Moriarty tried the case, which resulted in $15 million awarded for past and future pain and anguish, $25 million for past and future physical impairment, and $27 million for medical expenses. Nevaeh’s mother was additionally awarded $25 million for mental anguish, and $3.5 million for medical expenses.   

In January 2016, Nevaeh Hall was at the dentist to have a tooth crowned. Things went very wrong very quickly as Nevaeh was improperly restrained and sedated by a Houston dentist—Bethaniel Jefferson. As a result, she suffered drug-induced seizures and oxygen deprivation that left her with irreversible brain damage.

Nevaeh’s parents claimed that their daughter was not only physically restrained and negligently medicated but that she was also kept away from her mother once the seizures began. Documents introduced in the case showed that once the anesthetics and nitrous oxide were administered, the girl began convulsing within minutes.

Jefferson then attempted to stabilize the young girl with a drug that was not authorized for those suffering a seizure, likely worsening her condition. Unbelievably, Jefferson waited more than five hours before directing staff to call 911. The EMT team found Nevaeh unconscious in the dental chair. After being taken to Texas Children’s hospital, it was determined Nevaeh had suffered irreversible global brain damage as a result of extended periods of oxygen deprivation.

Jefferson’s medical license was revoked in November 2016, and she was indicted by a Harris County grand jury in 2017. Jefferson had prior reprimands on record due to failure to keep proper dental records and overdosing a patient and was found to have a history of misuse of sedation procedures.  The trial against Jefferson lasted three days—although Jefferson was subpoenaed, she did not appear at the civil trial. Jefferson has also been criminally indicted for injury to a child—a case that has not yet gone to court.

Jefferson made a phone call to a pharmacist asking for advice—rather than calling 911—and was advised by the pharmacist to use the drug that ultimately worsened the girl’s condition. The pharmacist, Charlotte M. Smith was initially named as a potentially liable party, however, was cleared of any wrongdoing, with the jury finding Jefferson 100 percent liable.

Today, ten-year-old Nevaeh Hall requires 24-hour medical care. While she is conscious, she cannot see, speak, walk, or eat on her own. Nevaeh’s mother, Courissa Clark, juggles work shifts at her job at the U.S. Postal Service with caring for her daughter, while Nevaeh’s grandmother watches the child when her mother is at work.

In response to the verdict, Andrew Sullo remarked, “The jury’s verdict sends a loud message to the dental community that putting profits over a patient’s health and well-being will not be tolerated.” Attorney Moriarty noted that “This terrible incident was the consequence of the epidemic of overtreating children at corporate-owned Medicaid clinics managed to maximize profits.”

Since this verdict was announced, Sullo & Sullo has begun investigating multiple other dentists and doctors in the area for similar atrocities. The firm’s phones have been ringing steadily since the verdict with cases that have similar facts.

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