This case is out of BC, but the legal principles would still apply here in Ontario because it’s based on judge-made laws of common law jurisdictions (i.e BC and Ontario). In the case of Macdonald v. Schmidt, 2023 BCCRT 785 (CanLII), a patient sued a dentist in BC’s version of small claims court (they only asked for $3,600) alleging that the dentist was negligent in failing to treat them and in failing to disclose all their records. The BC Civil Resolution Tribunal found no evidence to support the allegations and then dismissed the claims.
A new dentist owner (who bought and took over an established practice owner who retired) did NOT do a dental exam on a patient on three separate cleaning appointments. During one such appointment, the dentist moved the patient to a different room so that the dentist could conduct a dental exam. But the patient felt that the wait was too long and got up to leave and pay their bill. So no dental exam was conducted by the dentist at the relevant times.
The patient left and found a new dentist. The patient claimed they were shocked to learn that they needed about $7,800 in dental work (including 2 crown replacements and a likely root canal).
The patient also claims that they sent a letter, requesting their patient records. But the dentist claims that they never received the letter. And the letter was never addressed to anyone and no evidence was given to show that the letter was delivered to the dentist.
The patient alleged that, had the new dentist own conducted a dental exam and ordered x-rays at one of the appointments, the dentist would have caught some or all of the patient’s emerging dental issues earlier, thereby reducing costs the patient would incur for later dental work (including associated pain and discomfort).
The patient further alleged that the dentist was negligent and breached the standard of care by failing to provide full dental records (the patient eventually got their records from the BC regulatory body that governs dentists).
In order to prove that the dentist was negligent, the patient had to show that:
- The dentist owed the patient a duty of care. This existed given the dentist-patient relationship.
- The dentist breached their standard of care. This didn’t exist because there was no expert evidence submitted by the patient. There was no proof that the dentist didn’t do what they SHOULD have done (i.e. the dentist’s decision not to personally examine the patient or order / interpret x-rays did NOT fall below the applicable standard of a reasonably competent dentist). Further, the Tribunal found that the dentist likely never received the letter requesting the patient’s dental records.
- The patient sustained damages. The patient didn’t prove that they established damages. The patient didn’t show that the new dentist required the patient’s records to diagnose or treat the patient or that the patient incurred extra expense as a result. And the Tribunal refused to give damages for any alleged inconvenience of obtaining the records.
- The damage was caused by the dentist’s breach. The Tribunal found no causal connection between the dentist’s action and the harm allegedly suffered: the evidence doesn’t establish that the dental work the patient required by the second dentist resulted from a lack of appropriate care by the dentist.