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Rockey v. Assoc. For Oral Surgery

OPINION FILED FEBRUARY 27, 1978.

JIL ROCKEY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

ASSOCIATES FOR ORAL SURGERY, LTD., DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. MINOR K. WILSON, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE MCGLOON DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Plaintiff Jil Rockey sued defendant Associates for Oral Surgery, Ltd. for alleged injuries suffered when an improperly fitting denture was placed in her mouth. Plaintiff alleged that defendant negligently mistook the denture of another patient for plaintiff's and attempted to fit her with it. As a result, plaintiff alleged that she was forced to go through the pain and inconvenience of having a new denture made and was unable to work for one week.

During the jury trial, plaintiff's motion for a directed verdict was denied. When the jury rendered a verdict in defendant's favor, plaintiff made a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. This motion was also denied.

On appeal, plaintiff argues that the trial court improperly denied her motions for a directed verdict and judgment notwithstanding the verdict. Plaintiff requests that the judgment of the trial court be reversed and the cause remanded for a new trial.

We affirm.

Plaintiff Jil Rockey was to obtain a set of dentures for her upper jaw. Her family dentist, Dr. Knickels had an upper denture made. Dr. Knickels gave the denture to plaintiff and sent her to defendant Associates for Oral Surgery, Ltd., in order to have it placed in her mouth.

Plaintiff arrived at defendant's office with the denture in her purse. Once there, she handed the denture to a receptionist who escorted her to an operating room.

Dr. Gerald Spinazze, who was on duty that day, testified that the usual procedure was to take the denture to the laboratory for sterilization and then place it on a surgical tray in the operating room. While there were three operating rooms, there was no special procedure to insure that dentures were taken to the correct operating room.

Thereafter, Dr. Sorensen extracted 10 or 11 teeth from plaintiff's upper jaw and then attempted to place the denture in her mouth. Despite drilling on the denture in order to improve its shape, the denture would not fit. Dr. Sorensen then trimmed some of the bone in plaintiff's mouth, but still failed to get a good fit. He told plaintiff that it must have been the wrong denture and instructed her to return to Dr. Knickels.

When plaintiff returned to the office of Dr. Knickels, he stated that the denture now in her possession was not the same one he had given her. He testified that the original denture was a plastic plate with acrylic teeth and a high vault. The denture now in plaintiff's possession was larger, had porcelain teeth and a flat vault.

Dr. Knickels immediately took a new impression of plaintiff's mouth and obtained a temporary denture. Dr. Knickels fitted the new denture in plaintiff's mouth approximately one week later. During this time plaintiff was unable to work and lost $175 in earnings. Plaintiff testified that this new temporary denture also did not fit properly. She further testified that the permanent denture, with which she was fitted by Dr. Knickels eight or nine months later, also did not fit properly and "would fall off whenever I bit on the right side."

Dr. Spinazze of defendant Associates for Oral Surgery testified that it is not unusual for a denture not to fit and Dr. Knickels testified that it is not unusual to take second impressions of a patient's mouth when a first denture does not fit.

It is plaintiff's theory that her denture was somehow "switched" with that of a Mr. Green, another of defendant's patients who was also being fitted for an upper denture at the same time as plaintiff. Mr. Green's dentures did not fit either and Dr. Spinazze testified that it was very unusual to have two patients at defendant's offices at the same time, where neither set of dentures would fit correctly.

During trial, defendant admitted fitting plaintiff with the wrong denture. At the close of all the evidence, plaintiff moved for a directed verdict. The motion was denied and the jury subsequently rendered a judgment for defendant. Plaintiff's ...


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