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|William Kennerly (3) died after "routine" topical fluoride treatment|
From the "New York Times", Saturday, Jan. 20, 1979
$750,000 Given In Child's Death In Fluoride Case.
Boy, 3, Was in City Clinic for Routine Cleaning
By Robert D. McFadden
A State Supreme Court jury awarded $750,000 yesterday to the parents of a 3-year-old Brooklyn boy who, on his first trip to the dentist in 1974, was given a lethal dose of fluoride at a city dental clinic and then ignored for nearly five hours in the waiting rooms of a pediatric clinic and Brookdale Hospital while his mother pleaded for help, and he lapsed into a coma and died.
The award - $600,000 for the wrongful death of the boy, William Kennerly, and $150,000 for the pain and suffering he endured in the hours before his death - was by far the largest ever made in New York State for the death of a 3-year-old, according to the lawyers for the parents, Clay Kennerly, 48, an $8,000-a-year city exterminator, and his wife, Inez, 42, of 300 Dumont Avenue in the Brownsville section.
The child, according to testimony at a four-day trial in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, suffered spasms of vomiting and nausea, headaches and dizziness, and had to be revived from a coma by an injection of adrenaline into his heart several hours after his ordeal began.
The boy was then made to wait - in shock, another coma and finally in a state of cardiac arrest - for more than an hour before getting further treatment, witnesses said.
Other testimony indicated that the boy might have been saved at almost any time during the four hours and 40 minutes before he died by having had his stomach pumped or by having him drink some milk or lime water, which would have changed the fatal fluoride compound he had been given into a nontoxic calcium fluoride.
The defendants in the case were New York City, its Health and Hospitals Corporation and one of its clinics, the Brownsville Dental Health Center; Brookdale Hospital and its Brookdale Ambulatory Pediatric Care Unit; Dr. Bradford George, a dentist; Roslyn Cohen, a dental technician, and Dr. Pretti Bathia, a Brookdale pediatric clinic physician.
After more than a day of testimony by Mrs. Kennerly and medical and toxicological experts, and what were described as thorough investigations by the city and Brookdale Hospital, lawyers for the defendants on Thursday conceded liability, and the jury of five women and one man was instructed by Justice John A. Monteleone to return a verdict for the plaintiffs and to decide the damages to be assessed.
After the jury's verdict at 2:30 P.M., the defendants' lawyers, George W. Weiler for the city and James Hayes for Brookdale Hospital, moved to set the award aside as excessive. Justice Monteleone denied the motion, but said he would consider written motions for a reduction.
Some Reduction Proposed
Morton L. Panken, the lawyer for the Kennerly´s, who have eight other children, said the family would not object to a reduction of the $600,000 award for wrongful death to $500,000 because that was the amount originally asked in the suit. But he said the family had sought $500,000 more for the child´s suffering and would resist efforts to cut the $150,000 awarded for that
The story of the boy's death was related by his mother during the trial. She recalled that she took William, born on Feb. 7, 1971, for his first dental checkup on May 24, 1974, to the Brownsville Dental Health Center, a city clinic at 259 Bristol St.
There, he was examined by Dr. George, who found no dental caries and turned the boy over to Miss Cohen, a dental hygienist, for a routine teeth cleaning procedure. After cleaning, witnesses explained, Miss Cohen, using a swab, spread a stannous fluoride solution in the form of a jell over the boy's teeth as a decay preventive measure.
Fluoride in small amounts is mixed into various brands of toothpaste and the drinking water of some communities to prevent tooth decay. When used by a dentist or dental hygienist after a teeth cleaning, the fluoride jell is in a relatively strong solution, and a patient is told not to swallow it.
Instead, after the solution is allowed to remain on the teeth briefly, the patient is given water and told to wash his mouth out and expectorate.
Fatal Solution Swallowed
According to Mrs. Kennerly, Miss Cohen was engrossed in conversation with a co-worker while working on William and, after handing him a cup of water, failed to instruct him to wash his mouth out with it and spit out the solution. Mrs. Kennerly said that Miss Cohen was not paying attention when William drank the water about 9:30 A.M.
In drinking the water, according to a Nassau County toxicologist, Dr. Jesse Bidanset, William ingested 45 cubic centimeters of 2 percent stannous fluoride solution, triple an amount sufficient to have been fatal.
Upon leaving the dentists chair, William began vomiting, sweating and complaining of headache and dizziness. His mother, appealing to the dentist, was told the child had been given only routine treatment. But she was not satisfied and was sent to the Brookdale Ambulatory Pediatric care unit in the same building.