Texas family is awarded $95m damages after blundering dentist starved girl, 4, of oxygen

Texas family is awarded $95m damages after blundering dentist starved girl, 4, of oxygen during treatment for decayed teeth, leaving youngster blind, paralyzed and mute – but family likely won’t get any of the cash

  • In 2016, then four year old Neveah Hall was brought to the dentist by her family to have a tooth pulled
  • Hours later she was left hospitalized with brain damage after she was left starved of oxygen by a ‘rotten dentist,’ her family’s lawyer said
  • This week, a jury in Houston awarded Hall’s family $95 million after finding Dr Bethaniel Jefferson guilty of negligence 
  • Jefferson is due to face a criminal trial in the case in October
  • Hall’s family’s lawyer said that they will likely never see the money from Jefferson as she doesn’t have sufficient insurance or assets to cover the damages 

A Texas family has been awarded more than $95 million after daughter, Nevaeh Hall, 10, was left blind, paralyzed and unable to talk following a visit to the dentist in 2016. 

She was a healthy four year old little girl when her parents took her to Diamond Dentistry in Houston, Texas to have a few teeth capped and pulled due to decay.

While they waited in the waiting room for hours, their little girl started having seizures but her dentist, Dr Bethaniel Jefferson, didn’t raise the alarm and decided to treat her herself instead of calling 911.

Little Nevaeh ended up leaving the routine appointment in an ambulance, and was hospitalized for severe brain damage. 

The 269th State District Court in Houston found Jefferson liable due to her negligence on Thursday. The family’s attorney said that the jury found that the 4-year-old was improperly restrained and sedated during the visit. 

The family also said that Jefferson kept Hall away from her parents as she was suffering seizures. 

Nevaeh Hall, 10, was left paralyzed and unable to talk following the 2016 visit to the dentist to have a tooth pulled

Nevaeh Hall, 10, was left paralyzed and unable to talk following the 2016 visit to the dentist to have a tooth pulled

Dr. Bethaniel Jefferson was found negligent by a jury in Houston. Jefferson was accused of sedating and depriving the little girl of oxygen

Dr. Bethaniel Jefferson was found negligent by a jury in Houston. Jefferson was accused of sedating and depriving the little girl of oxygen

Hall's mother said  still has aspirations for her daughter saying: 'I definitely can see her walk and talk again'

Hall’s mother said  still has aspirations for her daughter saying: ‘I definitely can see her walk and talk again’

One of the family's lawyers, Jim Moriarty, told ABC Houston: 'The problem is the dentist has long since paid the pittance that she could pay. Now, we're sitting here and we're screwed'

One of the family’s lawyers, Jim Moriarty, told ABC Houston: ‘The problem is the dentist has long since paid the pittance that she could pay. Now, we’re sitting here and we’re screwed’

During the trial, Hall’s parents, Courissa Clark and Derrick Hall, testified that she requires 24 hour medical care. 

One of the family’s lawyers, Jim Moriarty, told ABC Houston: ‘The problem is the dentist has long since paid the pittance that she could pay. Now, we’re sitting here and we’re screwed.’ 

Jefferson does not have enough insurance or assets to cover the damages. 

He went on: ‘This jury has heard more evidence of corruption in the Medicaid dental system than any jury in this country. After they heard that evidence, they came back with a verdict that said, ‘Your damages are huge.”

Moriarty continued: ‘That’s more than a moral victory. That is a message to every crooked dentist in this country that if you abuse our vulnerable children, if you take advantage of them, if you steal from the taxpayer, we will hold you accountable.’

Hall’s mother was quoted by the station as saying: ‘It was definitely worth it to get justice for Neveah.’ She added that she still has aspirations for her daughter saying: ‘I definitely can see her walk and talk again.’ 

Another of the family’s lawyers, Ryan Skiver, said: ‘The evidence in trial was heartbreaking. A 30-pound girl, little more than a toddler, was physically and chemically suffocated by an out-of-control, financially motivated dentist,’ reports Click 2 Houston.

While another, Katherine McCredy, said: ‘Nevaeh’s parents, Courissa and Derrick, courageously fought for justice. From the beginning of this nightmare to now, they have urged regulators, law enforcement and elected officials to help clean up the dental industry.’

Speaking to Click 2 Houston, Moriarty referred to Bethaniel Johnson as a ‘rotten denist.’ 

A criminal trial for Jefferson will begin in October. In 2016, the Texas State Board of Dentistry has suspended Dr Jefferson’s medical license and it appears the practice has shut down.

Hall pictured with her mother, Courissa Clark. An attorney for the family revealed that Dr Jefferson administered five sedatives to the 30-pound child during the seven-hour procedure

Hall pictured with her mother, Courissa Clark. An attorney for the family revealed that Dr Jefferson administered five sedatives to the 30-pound child during the seven-hour procedure

Back in 2016, Clark warned other parents against a restraint device the dentist used to keep her daughter from flailing about during the procedure in a press conference.

The device, called a papoose, covers small children like a cocoon so they can not move during a dental procedure.

An attorney for the family revealed that Dr Jefferson administered five sedatives to the 30-pound child during the seven-hour procedure. Four hours of that procedure were spent in the papoose.

About two hours into the procedure, Clark says she heard her daughter crying so she went into the room to see how she was doing. At that point she wasn’t in the papoose yet, but she could see her flailing about in the dental chair.

‘When I went back there and saw her, my first question was: “OK, do we need to call the ambulance or are you all going to call the ambulance?”

‘And they said: “We’re just going to try to get her to calm down. We’re going to monitor her. We’re going to watch her. You guys have nothing to worry about, but we do need you all to wait in the waiting room and let her rest so she can walk back out of here,”‘ Clark recalled.

‘The whole time they just assured us that everything was OK. The next time we were allowed to come in is when the paramedics were actually coming back.’

In the same press conference, Moriarity held up a chart showing little Nevaeh’s vitals during the procedure. At one point the child’s oxygen levels got down to 49 per cent and her heartbeat went up to a racing 196 beats per minute.

Prior to the 2016 incident, Jefferson had been reprimanded by the Texas Dental Board in 2012 and 2005. In November 2016 the Texas Dental Board revoked Jefferson's license

Prior to the 2016 incident, Jefferson had been reprimanded by the Texas Dental Board in 2012 and 2005. In November 2016 the Texas Dental Board revoked Jefferson’s license

Hall's father, Derrick, said in 2016: 'It's heartbreaking. It really is like...I never in a million years would have thought something like this would happen'

Hall’s father, Derrick, said in 2016: ‘It’s heartbreaking. It really is like…I never in a million years would have thought something like this would happen’

‘In essence what happened is this child was chemically and physically suffocated,’ Jim Moriarty said. ‘This child suffered massive brain damage during that time period and that didn’t have to happen.’

At the conference, Nevaeh’s father Derrick Hall broke down in tears as be spoke about his brain-damaged daughter.

‘It’s heartbreaking. It really is like…I never in a million years would have thought something like this would happen,’ Hall told KTRK.

In 2017, Jefferson was indicted by a Harris County grand jury on Monday on charges of intentionally and knowingly by omission causing serious bodily injury to a child by failing to seek and provide adequate medical attention.

The first degree felony carries a prison sentence of between five to 99 years.

Prior to the 2016 incident, Jefferson had been reprimanded by the Texas Dental Board in 2012 and 2005. In November 2016 the Texas Dental Board revoked Jefferson’s license.

‘This indictment should send a message to the medical community that they will be held accountable for abandoning their patients in times of crisis,’ the Assistant Attorney General said.

‘While accidents in the health care industry occur more than everyone would prefer, practitioners must react appropriately and contact higher level medical care providers when they realize their patient is distressed beyond their capabilities.

‘Intentionally allowing a patient to wither away for hours after suffering from a seizure and severely depressed oxygen levels is a criminal dereliction of duty owed to the patient.’

 

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