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Abbotsford dentist ordered to pay $15K to former patient for ‘emotional harm’

Dentist’s actions were ‘high-handed and reprehensible,’ judge says
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Photo by Atikah Akhtar on Unsplash

An Abbotsford dentist must pay $15,000 to a former patient for working on 22 of her teeth in one eight-hour sitting while she was sedated when she had only consented to three, a judge has ruled.

Marie Harrison launched the small-claims lawsuit against Dr. Kyle Nawrot, saying she experienced “emotional suffering and loss of enjoyment of life” due to the procedure. She was seeking the maxium claim of $35,000.

In a decision released Tuesday (Feb. 20), Judge Andrea Ormiston detailed the circumstances of the case.

Harrison made several claims that work Nawrot performed on her was deficient, including to a bridge he tried to repair, but Ormiston focused her decision on treatment that occurred March 18, 2021.

Harrison testified that, on that date, she understood Nawrot would be working on three of her teeth that needed fillings repaired.

Her husband testified that he dropped off his wife at noon and was told he could pick her up at 3 p.m., but the time was repeatedly delayed as he waited for her and, at times, paced the hallway.

While Harrison was under sedation, Nawrot worked on a total of 22 of her teeth over an eight-hour period without her consent, court documents state.

RELATED: Abbotsford dentist suspended for one year for ‘professional misconduct’

“She (Harrison) was forthright in saying she wanted to have all the teeth that required fixing fixed, but she was adamant and steadfast under cross-examination that she did not want them all fixed in one sitting,” Ormiston said in her ruling.

Harrison also testified that she would not have consented to being under sedation for such a long period. She said she is “haunted” by a memory that at one point she was moved from the chair where the procedure was performed to another room in the clinic.

Nawrot did not testify but his lawyer suggested that Harrison wanted to have all the dental work done at once before her dental benefits expired, the ruling states.

Nawrot’s counsel also presented Harrison with a document suggesting she had consented to all the work, but the judge said the document was “not authenticated or adopted by any witness” nor was there any evidence that Harrison signed or understood the terms.

“Ms. Harrison agreed that the document bears her signature; however, she maintains that the document she signed related to three teeth …” the judge stated.

Ormiston said no reliable evidence was provided to prove that Harrison had agreed to having 22 teeth fixed in one sitting.

The judge determined there was also no evidence to conclude that Harrison had been physically harmed by the procedure, but there was “ample evidence of emotional harm.”

“In particular, Ms. Harrison describes ongoing nightmares, stress and worsening anxiety that have continued of more than two years, persisting through the trial in 2023,” Ormiston said.

Harrison is now afraid to undergo sedation and has had to have subsequent dental work – with her new dentist – performed without it, the ruling states.

Ormiston concluded that Harrison’s emotional reaction to having been sedated for hours longer than expected is a “foreseeable impact” to Nawrot’s “high-handed abuse of his position of trust and power.”

“Dr. Nawrot may not have intended to cause Ms. Harrison harm, but he acted in a high-handed and reprehensible manner towards a patient who was vulnerable due to sedation and relying entirely on his expertise and integrity. The affront to her dignity was obvious in the course of this trial,” the judge stated.

Ormiston awarded Harrison $10,000 in general damages, $3,000 in aggravated damages, almost $2,400 for loss of income, and filing and service fees.

But the judge said the “outcome of the trial may have been quite different” if Harrison had not been self-represented and her case had been presented to its “fullest extent.”

Nawrot was suspended from practice for one year – from Oct. 1, 2023 to Sept. 30, 2024 – by the BC College of Oral Health Professionals for professional misconduct.

A public noticed posted Sept. 25 on the college’s website indicated that Nawrot had admitted to performing extensive restorative treatment in a single session, performed treatments “that were not supported by records,” billed for treatment when the need for treatment was not supported by records, and provided treatment without having “sufficiently obtained or documented valid informed consent.”