An Arizona man was awarded a $275,000 verdict after a jury decided a dentist at a popular dental chain wrongly pulled all his teeth without consent.
DeWayne Smith won his case against Western Dental Services and Dr. Steven Nguyen in January, ending a three-year legal battle.
“They treated him like garbage,” said Craigg Voigtmann, one of Smith’s attorneys. “They took out all of his teeth and then abandoned him.”
Western Dental disputes the allegations. In a statement, the California-based chain called the jury’s decision surprising and disappointing.
On a Saturday in January 2015, Smith scheduled an emergency visit at the Western Dental. He was having severe tooth pain in his right upper wisdom tooth. It was his first visit ever at the dental office.
“I really don’t like going to dentists but I was in pain,” Smith said.
At the appointment, Western employees and Nguyen told him Smith had serious dental issues and that he would eventually need to replace all his teeth with implants or dentures.
Smith understood, and under pressure from Western Dental sales staff agreed to a long-term treatment plan. However, Smith said he “made it very clear” that he only wanted to have one tooth pulled that day to relieve the pain.
During the procedure, Western Dental staff numbed the area, sedated Smith with nitrous oxide, and then packed his mouth full of gauze, according to court testimony.
Smith left not knowing they had extracted all his teeth.
“I go to pulling this gauze out and then I realize there’s nothing there on the bottom, and there’s nothing there on the top,” he said. “I just fell to the floor. I didn’t believe what I was seeing.”
Employees testified that Nguyen left immediately after the procedure and that no one appeared to tell Smith what they did.
After the procedure, Western Dental also sent Smith a $7,000 bill, he said.
“(It’s) like running over a dog in the middle of the road and driving off,” said Smith’s fiancé, Sharon.
Nguyen testified that he had a direct conversation with Smith, who told him he wanted to have all of his teeth extracted that day. Western Dental also produced consent forms with Smith’s signature.
But Smith’s attorneys claimed those forms were manufactured after the procedure. And one Western employee testified against the company in hours of damning testimony.
Bianca Esquer was a patient care coordinator at Western Dental from 2013 to 2015. She worked directly with Smith during his appointment.
In a deposition and at trial, Esquer said that Smith made it clear he did not want a full extraction that day. She also discussed how employees and dentists are paid bonuses and commissions based on how much treatment patients get.
Esquer also testified it’s hard to believe anyone would agree to have all their teeth pulled on their first visit and without detailed planning.
“You don’t send someone home with a full extraction without teeth,” she said.
Smith was not provided dentures from Western Dental until months after his procedure, he said.
Scripps station KNXV in Phoenix reached out to Nguyen for comment through his attorney, Jeff Tonner. In an email, Tonner said Western Dental would be issuing the response.
Western Dental’s full statement:
“This case stems from dental work delivered over three years ago. The fact is the patient both approved and signed the consent forms for all dental work performed. Given the facts of this case, we were surprised and disappointed by the jury’s decision in January.”
KNXV Investigator Dave Biscobing can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.