DENTIST IS QUALIFIED TO TESTIFY REGARDING CAUSE OF CARDIAC INFECTION

Bell v. Markham
Dallas Court of Appeals, No. 05-19-00041-CV (January 30, 2020)
Justices Molberg, Reichek, and Evans (Opinion, available here)
In this dental malpractice case, the Dallas Court of Appeals confirmed a dentist may be qualified to offer expert opinions regarding the cause of a cardiac infection. To fulfill their obligations to serve Defendants with a qualifying expert report under Chapter 74, Plaintiffs proffered the report of Robbie Henwood, DDS. Defendants objected to the report, arguing that, as a “general dentist,” Henwood was not qualified to render an expert opinion that a bacterial infection in a person’s mouth caused a cardiac infection.

The Dallas Court disagreed, noting that Chapter 74 provides that “a dentist or physician” may provide the causation testimony in a professional liability case against a dentist, if the witness is qualified to do so under the rules of evidence. Here, Henwood’s report addressed his “knowledge, skill, experience, training or education” regarding the specific issue before the court—how an infection in the mouth developed into endocarditis. The Court also focused on the fact that, in addition to being a dentist, Henwood obtained additional training and expertise in doctoral pharmacology studies and teaches premedical students cardiovascular physiology. Additionally, Henwood testified that he had provided patients with treatment plans to prevent the spread of streptococcus mitis, the bacterium at issue in this case. In his report, Henwood provided a detailed explanation of how streptococcus mitis can spread from an infected tooth to the heart and cause endocarditis. Accordingly, the Court rejected Defendants’ argument that Henwood needed a medical degree or other specialization in treating infections to qualify as an expert witness on causation.

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