Professional Insurance Programs

Legal Q&A for Dentists

Q:A new patient at my practice is very unhappy with the treatment he received from his prior dentist. Recently, I was served with a subpoena demanding that I appear in the patient’s lawyer’s office for a deposition. Can I be forced to provide testimony about whether the prior dentist’s treatment was appropriate, i.e., whether it met the standard of care? What steps, if any, can I take to protect myself?

A:Subpoenas should not be treated lightly. If you are served with a subpoena you should immediately contact PIP, as you should be represented by your own lawyer at the deposition.

One of the reasons why you should be represented by counsel is that in Wisconsin, absent exceptional circumstances, a “treating dentist” cannot be compelled to offer opinion testimony about the standard of care applicable to another dentist or about the treatment provided by another dentist. In other words, you are not required to second-guess another dentist’s performance.

However, you are required to testify about your own treatment provided to the patient, including your observations and thought processes, why you took or did not take certain actions, and your training and education pertaining to the relevant subject. Therefore, as a treating dentist, your opinions regarding your own diagnosis and treatment, and your opinions about the patient’s future prognosis are proper areas for questioning. Your lawyer can help guide you through those questions at your deposition.

Information courtesy of SIESENNOP & SULLIVAN.