Tort law includes the eggshell skull rule under which a party whose negligence harms another is responsible for the direct consequences of his acts, even in the case of one who was unusually prone to injury. In other words, you take your victim as you find him. Reading Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s account of the settlement of his lawsuit against the operators and suppliers of the House cafeteria — Kucinich sent the account out to his supporters by email this past Friday — I thought of the eggshell skull rule:
Though I would prefer to focus your attention on my work dealing with the profoundly important issues that face our nation, such as job creation, getting the economy back on track, and ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – it seems that some are more interested in discussing my personal dental issues. Given the degree of public interest you should know some details:
This injury required nearly two years, three dental surgeries, and a substantial amount of money to rectify.
The legal action you have heard about was filed due to the severity, expense and duration of the dental injury, the complications which followed and which still persist. I wanted to resolve this matter without filing a lawsuit. The events below involved numerous dental visits, more than are detailed in this summary.The dental injury set in motion a chain of dental and medical events.
When I bit into the olive pit, (unbeknown to me at the time), upon impact the tooth split in half, vertically through the crown and the tooth, below the level of the bone. Externally there was no evidence of a break. This was not about aesthetics. The internal structure of the tooth was rendered nonrestorable.Although the pain was excruciating, I shook it off and I went right back to work.
This tooth is a key tooth which anchored my upper bridgework. The injured tooth and the bone above it became infected. I took a course of antibiotics for the infection, had an adverse reaction to the antibiotics which caused me to have an intestinal obstruction and emergency medical intervention.
Later, my dentist referred me to a specialist who informed me that the damaged tooth had to be removed. A third dentist removed the tooth and I was fitted for a temporary partial. I waited for the bone to heal. An implant was placed, but it failed. Many months later still a second implant succeeded. My bridgework had to be completely reconfigured, a new partial was designed, so this injury did not affect only one tooth, but rather involved six (6) replacement teeth as well. A new crown with a new precision attachment was engineered and put in place. To clarify, no dental expenses were covered by any health plan, nor did I have dental insurance that covered the injury, which, until it was resolved, affected my ability to chew food properly.
The clamor for information about this incident requires that I provide at least this much information. I would have liked to provide such details sooner but did not want it said that I was trying the case in the media. So that is why I declined any interviews about the matter.The parties have exchanged information and after some investigation and discussion have resolved the matter for an amount all parties believe reflects the actual out-of-pocket expenses related to this incident. The terms of the settlement are confidential; however, I feel that the defendants have responded fairly and reasonably. I don’t want to have to make another dental visit for a very long time, and will be making no further comment on this matter.
Thank you very much.
Kucinch’s account provides the answers to most of the questions inquiring minds want to know, though it omits any mention of the eggshell skull rule — perhaps for obvious reasons.
UPDATE: One of our dentist readers is not satisfied by the congressman’s explanation. He comments: “The weakest link in a proper bridge would be the porcelain on the restoration, not the tooth underneath. Of course there are always exceptions, and sometimes ‘stuff’ happens, can’t say for certain without more information or x-rays, but I suspect the bridge or tooth had trouble predating the olive pit that was never properly treated.” Dr. X., I believe this would be a good hypothetical for a law school Torts exam question testing the application of the eggshell skull rule.