Nearly every dental malpractice claim requires expert testimony.  Experts help determine the requisite standard of care, whether or not that standard was met, and, if so, if a deviation caused the injury complained of by the plaintiff.  Expert deposition and trial testimony are critical. So, who is qualified to be an expert?  Before Georgia’s 2005 tort reform statute, Georgia law was extremely liberal in permitting expert testimony to be placed into evidence.  In fact, before tort reform, under O.C.G.A. § 24-9-67, “opinions of experts on any question of science, skill, trade, or like questions shall always be admissible.” Today, under Georgia law, an expert’s testimony must be both (1) relevant and (2) reliable.  Experts must render an opinion that educates the jury on the relevant standard of care, if the defendant breached that standard, and if the breach caused the plaintiff injury.  If an expert is able to meet this…       Read More

I’ve had clients start a conversation with something like this quite a few of times.  Once we unravel that assertion and the thinking behind it, it often (not always) turns out that the client didn’t need a trust after all. A trust is nothing more than an arrangement whereby one party (the trustee) holds property for the benefit of another (the beneficiary).  Trusts in Georgia don’t even have to be written to be legally valid, though obviously they should be written, and written well, to avoid ambiguities and unintended consequences. When a client starts a conversation this way, many times the concept behind the statement is to “avoid probate.”  Inter vivos trusts (commonly called “living” trusts) are used for this purpose in many states where probate is an expensive and cumbersome process.  Fortunately, Georgia is not one of those states, so using a living trust to avoid probate is not…       Read More

A dentist owes a legal duty to those persons with whom she has a dentist/patient relationship.  This relationship is the basis of her legal obligation to reasonably treat and care for her patients.  So what establishes a dentist/patient relationship? While this varies from state to state, it is surprisingly easy to create a dentist/patient relationship.  Most obviously, a dentist/patient relationship is established when a patient makes an appointment, is examined by the dentist, and pays a fee for the visit.  Likewise, a relationship is clearly established when a dentist operates on a patient. A relationship can also be established much less formally.  For example, a dentist at a holiday party who offers dental advice to another partygoer with the exception that he rely on such advice may have established a dentist/patient relationship.  That the partygoer did not visit the dentist’s office or pay for the consultation may not matter.  Moreover,…       Read More