Wolfe v. Feldman

Peter Ackerberg, writing in the Minneapolis Star (Nov 17, 1979), described the unusual legal case of Wolfe v. Feldman, which was heard in 1936:

Charlotte Wolfe had three rotten teeth, so she went to Max Feldman, a dentist specializing in oral surgery, to have them pulled. When the surgery was over, however, Wolfe complained of pain in a strange place: the pinky finger of her right hand. It turned out to be a possible fracture, and she sued Feldman.

Feldman countered that it wasn't his fault, and he told the judge this story:

Wolfe was strapped to the dentist's chair (apparently a common procedure then), and was given nitrous oxide, an anesthesia better known as laughing gas. What happened next was no laughing matter.

The next part of the story is best summarized in the text of the case itself:

Defendant's story is that plaintiff was strapped to the operating chair; that a short time later, after plaintiff was in the excitement stage of nitrous oxide anaesthesia and as he moved closer to the chair to adjust the suction aspirator, plaintiff, despite the limited movement of the strapped wrist, clutched his testicles with a painful grip, which required the use of great force to release.

So the patient, while under the influence of laughing gas, managed to grab hold of the dentist's testicles, and in the process of freeing himself the dentist fractured her little finger.

Nevertheless, the judge ruled in favor of the patient for $650, saying:

It was incumbent on him, during the time the patient was in the so-called 'fighting stage' reached by patients undergoing anesthesia by nitrous oxide, not to place his body in such a position as to permit plaintiff's hands to interfere with him to such an extent as to require the application of force sufficiently severe to cause her physical injury.
     Posted By: Alex - Tue Apr 26, 2022
     Category: Lawsuits | 1930s | Teeth

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