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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Alonso Lopez sucked a dental bridge into his lungs during a dental procedure performed by Oscar Montemayor. Montemayor, thinking Lopez had swallowed the bridge, not inhaled it, advised Lopez to wait for the bridge to move through his system naturally. When that didn’t happen, and when he also developed a fever, he went to the hospital. Physicians at Baptist Medical Center performed a bronchoscopy, but they couldn’t remove the bridge. Lopez lapsed into a coma, then died a month later. On Oct. 4, 2001, Lopez’ family filed a medical malpractice claim against Montemayor, Baptist Medical Center, and the doctors involved with the bronchoscopy. At that time, the family was represented by Carol Lomax. Lomax attached to the petition an expert report from another dentist saying that Montemayor deviated from the accepted standard of care for dentists, and that the aspiration of the dental bridge was the cause of Lopez’ death. Lomax submitted three additional reports on Jan. 31 from experts in the fields of all the other defendants, but no other reports were filed by the April 2, 2002, deadline under the med-mal statute. Lomax, meanwhile, had to be hospitalized for physical and mental treatment in April 2002 and again in August 2002. A second attorney then took over the Lopez family’s claim. The defendants filed for summary judgment in February 2003, arguing that the reports did not meet the requirements of �13.01(r)(6). The Lopezes countered that their reports were adequate, but also asked that they have a 30-day grace period under �13.01(g) to file amended reports, because the inadequate reports were the result of Lomax’s physical and mental deterioration. The trial court dismissed the Lopez’ suit with prejudice because the reports were lacking. The trial court also ruled the family was not entitled to a grace period. HOLDING:Affirmed. The court first decides that the expert report from the dentist did not meet the requirements of �13.01(r)(6), which must provide “a fair summary of the expert’s opinions as of the date of the report regarding applicable standards of care, the manner in which the care rendered by the physician or health care provider failed to meet the standards, and the causal relationship between that failure and the injury, harm, or damages claimed.” The court agrees with Montemayor that while the dentist was qualified to give her opinion on the standard of care, she was not qualified to give an expert opinion on the cause of death. It is not enough that the dentist was on staff at three hospitals. It is clear, the court notes, that even the dentist does not consider herself qualified to give an opinion on the specific medical matter involved in the case. Further, even if the dentist was qualified, her opinion on causation, that “it is the aspiration of the bridge section which caused and precipitated the medical circumstances leading to the patient’s demise,” was conclusory, and does not constitute a good faith effort to comply with the statute’s causation requirement. The court then upholds the trial court’s decision that the Lopezes were not entitled to a 30-day grace period in which to amend their reports. A grace period can be granted if the failure to file an adequate report was not due to intentional disregard or conscious indifference, but was an accident or a mistake. Based on testimony from an attorney who worked with Carol Lomax, the court finds that it was not an abuse of discretion for the trial court to conclude that Lomax did not become incapacitated by illness until April 1, 2002, the day before the deadline for filing adequate expert reports. “While this court may have reached a different conclusion under the facts presented, we must be guided by the abuse of discretion standard, and we cannot say the trial court abused its discretion by concluding the Lopezes’ failure to file adequate expert reports was the result of intentional or consciously indifferent conduct.” OPINION:Stone, J.; Stone, Green and Angelini, JJ.

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