The story of Australian Pawel Gajewski involved a relatively uncomplicated procedure but ushered in a series of unfortunate events that ended a promising chef’s career all because of a wisdom tooth extraction gone wrong.
The court case is the first reported where damages for pain and suffering from injury relating to a botched wisdom tooth extraction was assessed. This was placed at $30,000.
Gajewski worked at Tippling Club, a fine-dining restaurant and sued dentist Lee Tong Lynn, who did not contest liability but disputed the amount payable. Before the tooth-extracting incident, he worked as a professional chef in various Michelin-starred restaurants around the world, like Noma in Copenhagen, Guy Savoy and Le Atelier, both in Paris.
Mr Gajewski went to Dr Lee to have his wisdom tooth surgically extracted on April 23, 2013, but complications arose during the procedure as his tooth could not be extracted.
He was later found to have sustained in the course of the procedure a serious injury to the right lingual nerve, which led to him being unable to taste or discern texture or temperature on the right side of his tongue. According to the court, his chances of recovery were placed as being “either non-existent or at best poor.”
He resigned from Tippling Club in December 2015, returned to Melbourne and worked there for two companies before opening a business in February last year, providing consultancy services to clients intending to open restaurants. Mr Glen Tay, who was sous chef to Mr Gajewski, recounted an occasion after the injury where Mr Gajewski approved a dish to be served despite it being “way too salty.”
He added that Mr Gajewski’s performance “continued to go through the ground. I had to taste everything for him every day and he could only watch if the cooks were doing something wrong. He had lost his ability to function effectively as a chef and with that, his self-confidence took a beating”.
Deputy Registrar Hakkim found Mr Gajewski’s career trajectory in the traditional chef’s role had “effectively been pulled under his feet”.
The court awarded the S$75,000 sought for loss of earning capacity as argued for by his lawyers, Senior Counsel Kuah Boon Theng and lawyer Samantha Oei. Mr Hakkim made it clear that loss of earning capacity was meant to compensate Mr Gajewski for the “debilitated ability” to compete in the market for his pre-accident job. However, he declined to make any award for loss of future earnings for Mr Gajewski, given the “absence of concrete and objective evidence showing his post-accident income.”
By mutual consent between his lawyers and Dr Lee’s lawyers S. Selvaraj and Leong Hoy Kok, the court awarded Mr Gajewski $30,000 in damages for pain and suffering, and $2,066 for medical and transport costs. -/TISG