Janus Pawlowicz was having root canal surgery at an Illinois dental clinic when his dentist told him that she had dropped an instrument somewhere and couldn’t find it.
A couple of days later, Pawlowicz’s stomach began hurting, and he started feeling nauseous. He went to his doctor, who ordered an X-ray. And there it was: The nearly 2-inch-long barbed broach, a razor-sharp metal file used during root canals, was lodged in the middle of Pawlowicz’s stomach.
After the incident at Gentle Dental Services in Des Plaines, Ill., in October 2014, Pawlowicz filed a medical negligence lawsuit against the dentist, Beata Kozar-Warchalowska. This week, the lawsuit was settled for $675,000.
Filed 16 months ago in Cook County Circuit Court, the lawsuit claimed that Pawlowicz’s injury could have been easily prevented. His attorney, Rob Kohen, told The Washington Post that the dentist failed to use a rubber dental dam, which is supposed to cover the entire mouth during a procedure and expose only the part that a dentist is treating. That way, Kohen said, nothing is accidentally dropped down the patient’s throat.
“The standard required is that this dentist use a dental dam that costs next to nothing,” Kohen said. “She didn’t use that. At that time, my client doesn’t know that.”
Kohen said he doesn’t know whether Kozar-Warchalowska realized she had dropped the tool into her patient’s throat and didn’t tell him. Gentle Dental Services and Kozar-Warchalowska’s attorney did not return calls for comment.
Kohen said his client, who declined an interview request, underwent an emergency surgery after the tool was discovered, and a second surgery shortly after. His medical costs, Kohen said, was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“I was kind of shocked,” Kohen said. “I hear a lot of stories in this practice. It’s rare that you hear a dental tool dropped into somebody’s throat like that.”
The settlement came as a Colorado judge is preparing to rule on a case involving a dentist who is accused of pulling the wrong tooth from a patient, according to the Aspen Times. Andrew Turchin testified Wednesday in Pitkin County small claims court that he pulled the correct tooth and that the one the patient wanted to get rid of is no longer problematic, the newspaper reported.
In Indiana, an Indianapolis dentist was accused last year of overbilling Medicaid for unnecessary procedures performed on 158 patients, according to WISH-TV. The TV station reported that some patients claimed that dentist Shadrach Gonqueh either removed dozens of their teeth or performed unwarranted procedures.
Pawlowicz — who lives in the Chicago suburb Hoffman Estates — told ABC affiliate WLS that Kozar-Warchalowska had been his dentist for years. When she realized the tool was missing, the dentist told Pawlowicz that she’d call him when she found it. But the call never came, the station reported.
“I didn’t expect it would happen like this,” Pawlowicz told WLS.
The incident left not only scars from the surgeries but also permanent injuries to Pawlowicz’s stomach. He can no longer eat certain types of food because they would upset his stomach, Kohen said, declining to provide more details about the injury.
“He’s certainly not where he was and not the same person he was before it happened,” Kohen said of Pawlowicz.
It’s unclear whether Kozar-Warchalowska will face any disciplinary actions; the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation’s license database shows that Kozar-Warchalowska’s license remains active.