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B.C. woman wins $15K in damages for 'serious pain and suffering' caused by dentist

Dentist Works on Teeth

A B.C. woman who sued her dentist after he performed "extensive" treatment that she did not consent to while she was sedated has been awarded more than $15,000 in damages.

Marie Harrison took her dentist Dr. Kyle Nawrot to small claims court seeking $35,000 in compensation – the maximum amount allowed – and was awarded damages for assault, battery and negligence in a ruling handed down last week. The judge found Nawrot worked on 22 of the patient's teeth while she was unconscious even though she had only consented to having work done on three.

"This is a case about a woman who has unfortunately suffered serious pain and suffering related to dental work done by Dr. Nawrot," Judge Andrea Ormiston's says in her decision, which came after a three-day trial in 2023.

"Ms. Harrison described months of physical misery including not being able to properly eat and having teeth so unsightly that she isolated herself from everything except going to work… Ms. Harrison’s emotional anguish persists to this day."

The court heard that Nawrot admitted to professional misconduct in relation to his treatment of Harrison after she made a complaint to the B.C. College of Oral Health Professionals. Those admissions included providing sub-standard treatment, billing for treatment when the need for treatment was not supported, and failing to document informed consent, among other things.

The judge noted that Harrison was self-represented, often overcome with emotion at trial and that she "struggled to advance her case." Among the issues the judge noted was a lack of understanding of how to introduce expert evidence – which would have been necessary to prove physical harm or to show how or to what extent the dentist's work fell short of the standard of care.

"The outcome of this trial may have been quite different if Ms. Harrison’s complaint had been presented to its fullest extent," the decision says.

Still, the combination of Nawrot's admissions and the evidence presented at trial was enough for the judge to find that the dentist "committed the torts of assault and battery" and was negligent – and this caused "significant and long-lasting emotional harm" to Harrison.

Harrison sought treatment on two occasions but the judge's decision focused on an appointment on March 18 as the primary source of the harm for which the patient was being compensated.

The plan at that appointment, Harrison told the court, was for Nawrot to fix fillings in three of her teeth. Instead, he worked on 22 of her teeth while she was unconscious.

"On the evidence I accept, Dr. Nawrot simply proceeded to work on 19 of Ms. Harrison’s teeth without her knowledge, let alone her consent," the judge wrote, explaining that medical or surgical procedures performed without consent can constitute assault and battery.

The appointment itself lasted more than eight hours.

Harrison also told the court that the amount of time for which she was sedated had left her with fears that "her bodily integrity was violated in ways beyond the unauthorized dental work." She also said she believed she was alone with the dentist in the clinic and thinks she may have been moved to another room at some point while she was unconscious.

The judge noted that no specific allegation of additional physical harm was brought forward or proven but that these fears were relevant when assessing damages.

"Ms. Harrison’s fears about her vulnerability while under sedation are acutely relevant to the extent of the harm she suffered from the unauthorized work. As a direct result of being kept for so long in the office under sedation in order to perform unauthorized dental procedures, I find that Ms. Harrison experienced serious and prolonged emotional suffering that persists to the present day," the judge wrote, adding that these fears and this harm were "a foreseeable outcome to the Defendant’s high-handed abuse of his position of trust and power."

The judge awarded Harrison $10,000 in general damages to compensate Harrison for emotional harm and "the loss of enjoyment of life" caused by the negligence and the assault and battery. The judge also awarded $3,000 in aggravated damages as compensation for Nawrot's breach of a position of trust and $2,375 for loss of income.

According to an agreement with the professional regulator, Nawrot was suspended for 12 months for professional misconduct and fined $6,000. Top Stories

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