$35 Million Verdict Awarded to Victims of Shoreline Dentist

In 2012, a Shoreline dentist was taken to court for malpractice and on Wednesday, July 17, 2013, the verdict was given. Henri Duyzend, Shoreline dentist since 1977, was found guilty of negligence, failure to obtain informed consent, fraud and the violation of the Washington Consumer Protection Act. The award, to be shared between 29 former patients, is one of the largest in state history for dental negligence: $35 million.

More than 200 of Duyzend’s former patients filed medical malpractice claims, but most of them accepted settlements. The 29 who declined to do so were included in Wednesday’s verdict. The $35 million was divided between the victims based on the severity of their physical and financial suffering. The individual awards range from $440,000 to over $2 million.

Good Bedside Manner Disguised Bad Intentions

Laurel Stuart was one of Duyzend’s first patients. According to Stuart, Duyzend had an excellent bedside manner, making her feel comfortable and at ease. His demeanor quickly earned the trust of his patients. Stuart trusted him even though on her very first visit he said that he wanted to give her a crown because she had good insurance. In the late 90’s, Stuart finally started questioning his work due to the number of root canals he performed. In total, Stuart received four root canals, many crowns and had to undergo treatment by a specialist when she lost four of her teeth. Stuart was awarded $980,000.

Cheryl Grant, whose story we featured last year, chose Duyzend because he was the only dentist who would accept her welfare medical coupons and remained his patient after she acquired private health insurance. Over the course of 15 years she saw her medical bills soar as Duyzend performed an outrageous number of root canals: 13 in total. When Duyzend retired, Grant refinanced her house to pay off her outstanding balance of $3,300. Grant was awarded $1,420,000.

The highest award was given to Dan O’Neal, a construction worker whom Duyzend gave 20 root canals. According to Dr. David To, who bought Duyzend’s practice after he retired, the typical patient has no more than two root canals in a lifetime. O’Neal was awarded $2,090,000.

A Perfect Illustration of Malpractice

According to Washington state law, medical malpractice must meet three criteria:

Negligence or malicious intent. Duyzend’s conduct was blatantly negligent and could certainly be perceived as malicious. As he put his patients through painful procedures and a nightmare of medical bills, he lived a plush life, owning a house and four condominiums. This was not a case of one or two errors in judgement, but a calculated strategy to take advantage of patients’ trust.

Breach of standard of care. No qualified dentist would have given patients unnecessary root canals and crowns. Fred Quarnstrom, a former Dental Board Commissioner with over 50 years of experience as a Seattle dentist, was hired to review patients’ charts and what he found horrified him. Not only were patients given an excessive number of root canals and crowns, but the work was poorly executed. Dr. To first became suspicious of Duyzend’s work when many of his former patients started coming in for pain caused by failed root canals.

Physical or financial injury. The victims of Duyzend suffered both physical pain and financial hardship. Many had to undergo corrective surgery including tooth extraction, bone grafting and dental implants. Medical bills from both the original work and the corrective surgery totaled in the thousands for many of Duyzend’s patients.

Were You a Victim?

According to his records, Duyzend performed 2,200 root canals on about 500 patients between 2002 and 2007. Only 200 of these patients have come forward to claim the damages owed to them. Hundreds more may have been injured by Duyzend’s negligence. 

If you were injured by Duyzend, or if you have suffered injury at the hands of a dentist of physician, you may be eligible for compensation. Please contact us immediately for a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced attorneys. Do no delay, as the time to file a claim is limited by Washington law. 

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