Expert Testimony About What is Generally Done or What Average Dentist Would Do Failed to Establish What is Required of Minimally Competent Dentist

A patient went to a dentist for a procedure and the dentist administered anesthesia. The patient allegedly experienced pain, swelling, and nerve damage.


The patient sued the dentist for medical negligence in administering the anesthesia. At the end of the plaintiff’s case in chief, the defendant moved for a directed verdict arguing that the patient’s expert failed to state the applicable standard of care. The trial court granted the directed verdict for the defendant. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s decision.


The Supreme Court of Mississippi, however, reversed the Court of Appeals and affirmed the trial court’s grant of directed verdict for the defendant. The Supreme Court held that the standard of care in dental negligence cases is measured against a dentist of minimum competence. A plaintiff must establish, through a qualified expert, what is required of a minimally competent dentist, whose skills and knowledge are sufficient to meet the licensure or certification requirements for the profession or specialty practiced.


The court concluded that a careful reading of the expert's testimony reveals that he established neither the requisite standard of care nor a breach of it. The expert testified as to what was generally done and what the average dentist would do. However, dentists are not required to do what is generally done, or what the average dentist would do. The expert did not testify as to what was required of a minimally competent dentist. Therefore, the patient's expert failed to establish the standard of care or any breach of it.


See: Braswell v. Stinnett, 2012 WL 4946290 (Miss., October 18, 2012) (not designated for publication).