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David v. Biondo, 1998 N.Y. Int. 0126 (Oct. 22, 1998).

MALPRACTICE - COLLATERAL ESTOPPEL


ISSUE & DISPOSITION

Issue

Whether, as a matter of law, Plaintiff can be deemed in privity with the Board of Regents, a professional regulatory body, so that the Plaintiff's malpractice claim against her dentist is collaterally estopped by the Board of Regents' dismissal of professional disciplinary proceedings arising out of the same alleged misconduct.

Disposition

No. The patient cannot be collaterally estopped from asserting her malpractice claim based on a prior determination by the professional regulatory body that dismissed disciplinary proceedings arising out of the same events because the patient should not be deemed to be in privity with the professional regulatory body.

SUMMARY

In 1986, Plaintiff sued her former dentist Biondo for dental malpractice based on alleged damages following the removal of braces in 1985. In addition, Plaintiff filed a grievance with the Office of Professional Discipline (O.P.D.) of the New York State Education Department. After an investigation period, the O.P.D. brought disciplinary charges against Defendant in 1988. In 1991, after a comprehensive hearing and fact finding process, the Board of Regents dismissed all allegations of professional misconduct. Meanwhile, the civil malpractice action brought by Plaintiff continued in state court. The Supreme Court eventually dismissed the case in 1995 solely on the grounds of collateral estoppel. The Supreme Court held that Plaintiff's malpractice claim was collaterally estopped by the 1991 Board of Regents' resolution of the disciplinary proceeding initiated against the dentist. In 1997, the Appellate Division affirmed Supreme Court's dismissal. The Court of Appeals granted the Plaintiff leave to appeal, reversed, and reinstated Plaintiff's malpractice complaint.


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