LVD News

Attorney Lynch wins  $300,000 for his client in a medical malpractice case.

Jurors on Monday found that Dr. Jan Kippax and his oral surgery business in Lewiston were negligent in treating a patient in 2011, and awarded a Minot man $300,000 in damages

The verdict followed 2½ hours of deliberation on the fifth day of the civil trial at the Capital Judicial Center.

Steven Darnell Jr., 35, charged that Kippax failed to comply with applicable standards of care when Darnell developed a massive infection in early January 2011, just days after Kippax extracted two of his molars.

In closing arguments, Darnell’s attorney, Scott Lynch, asked jurors to find that both Kippax and Androscoggin Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons, P.A., were negligent and suggested jurors award Darnell $48,266.82 for his medical bills, $295,000 for pain and suffering during a week at home, two weeks in the hospital and three months of daily trips to an infusion lab to receive antibiotics.

Lynch held up for jurors a color photo of Darnell’s face at the time showing the lower portion of his jaw swollen to twice normal size.

He said doctors had to operate on Darnell’s jaw and put in drains to eliminate the pus that had built up from infection.

Lynch also told jurors to decide for themselves an amount to compensate Darnell for the scar he now bears and the lasting effects to the left side of his face.

“This changed Steven’s life,” Lynch said.

Kippax’s attorney, Mark Lavoie, said Kippax properly treated Darnell, seeing him on Jan. 3, 2011, just three days after the teeth were extracted when Darnell complained that he remained in severe pain.

Lavoie said Kippax saw no evidence of infection at that point and that Darnell failed to follow Kippax’s discharge instructions to rinse his mouth with salt water and to avoid smoking.

Lavoie also said that Darnell did not return for help after that one follow-up visit and instead chose to go to the emergency room at Central Maine Medical Center on Jan. 5, 2011, and then on Jan. 7, 2011, when he was admitted.

“It’s not an infection Dr. Kippax gave him,” Lavoie said. “It’s not an infection that Dr. Kippax failed to see.”

He added, “In the end, Dr. Kippax provided good care. He took out teeth that needed to come out, he did it expertly, and he saw the patient when he requested a follow-up.”

A number of experts testified on both sides.

After the jury verdict, Lavoie said, “We accept their decision. We disagree with it.” He added. “It’s very disappointing to the doctor, obviously.”

Lavoie said the money will come from Kippax’s malpractice insurer.

The verdict was returned in an unusual form. Instead of sending a note indicating the jury had reached a verdict, the jury sent the verdict to Justice MaryGay Kennedy, who presided at the trial. She told the lawyers just prior to the jury returning to the courtroom that she had not looked at it, and a clerk read it aloud once the jury returned.

Jurors voted 8-1 to award the $300,000 in damages.

After the verdict, Lynch said, “Obviously the Darnell family is delighted they had the opportunity to present Steven’s story to the jury. We just wanted to expose Dr. Kippax’s office practices.”

Lynch referred to Kippax’s estimation that he had treated 97,000 people and extracted 400,000 to 500,000 teeth. Lynch said it was an “extraction mill.”

The case, which originated in Androscoggin County Superior Court, was moved to Kennebec County for trial because of the amount of pre-trial publicity.

Kippax’s license to practice dentistry was suspended for 30 days earlier this year by an order of the Maine Board of Dental Practice, which is in the midst of a hearing regarding a number of complaints filed against him by patients. In the meantime, Kippax continues to practice.

Lynch said, “We’re hoping that the state dental board will take a look at this verdict and what the average person can do if they just stand up and tell their story.”

Kippax was the defendant in a similar malpractice lawsuit brought in Kennebec County by a Hallowell woman in 2009. Kippax prevailed in that case, and the Maine Supreme Judicial Court affirmed that verdict on appeal.


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