Today (July 27th) jury selection starts in the wrongful death / dental malpractice wrongful death case of Wakefield v. Blume et al. (Fourth District Court for Utah County, Provo Division, Hon. Robert Lund, C/N 150400386.)

Jared Wakefield, age 22, died after aspirating gauze during a dental procedure at The Smile Center in Provo on June 3, 2014. The procedure– three extractions, a crown, and eight fillings- was performed under sedation. Dr. Dennis Blume was the dentist and was assisted by a dental anesthesiologist, ​Dr. David Gutzman.

This untoward event was covered at the time by national and international news outlets, such as the New York Daily News and the ​Daily Mail Online. (Here is the obituary for Mr. Wakefield.)

The plaintiffs, Jared’s parents, allege various acts of negligence on the part of the defendants, including failing to prevent the gauze from being aspirated, and improper management of the aspiration event after it happened. All allegations of fault are hotly contested by the defense. There was an offer of judgment by Dr. Blume for $250,000, and offers of judgment by the plaintiffs on Dr. Gutzman and Dr. Blume for $850,000 each. (Of course, none of these Rule 68 offers were accepted.)

Unusually for a jury trial, trial briefs (and responses) have been submitted by the parties. These provide useful summaries of the claims and defenses:

This trial should last into next week.

There has been an extensive motion practice, much of it concerning whether a wrongful death claim was properly pleaded. The former trial judge determined that no death claim had been pleaded or preserved against the individual defendants, but only against the alleged employer, The Smile Center. So as to Dr. Blume and Dr. Gutzman, there remains only the survival claim. (Please read this order for further information.)

Counsel for Plaintiffs: Kathleen McConkie, Michelle O’Neill, Dean Collinwood, and Sarah Pfrommer.

Counsel for Dr. Blume and The Smile Center: Terry Rooney and Adam Sorensen (Professional Insurance Exchange is the carrier)

Counsel for Dr. Gutzman: Vaun Hall and Jacob Nelson (UMIA/Constellation Mutual is the carrier)

Salt Lake Medical Malpractice Attorney Blog