Kucinich Settles Olive Pit Lawsuit

Rep. Dennis Kucinich has settled his lawsuit over biting into an olive pit in a sandwich at a federal cafteria, breaking his tooth and requiring multiple dental procedures. While the amount is confidential, he says it covers his out-of-pocket expenses.

"I feel that the defendants have responded fairly and reasonably," Kucinich said. "I don't want to have to make another dental visit for a very long time and will be making no further comment on this matter."

After filing the lawsuit, Kucinich released the following details: [More...]

The fix took almost two years and required three dental surgeries, none covered by insurance.

Kucinich says his tooth split in half, vertically through the crown and tooth, below the level of the bone. The tooth's internal structure could not be restored. The injured tooth, which anchored his upper bridgework, became infected. Antibiotics Kucinich took for the infection caused an adverse reaction that obstructed his intestines and required "emergency medical intervention," his statement said.

A specialist told Kucinich the damaged tooth had to be removed. Replacing it required two implant procedures. His bridgework had to be completely reconfigured, involving six replacement teeth.

I would bet the intestinal issue had a lot to do with his filing the lawsuit. I wonder if he was prescribed the antibiotic Clindamycin and developed Clostridium difficile (C. diff.) You can read the horror stories here.

In an e-mail Kucinich sent out today, he wrote:

The injured tooth and the bone above it became infected. I took a course of antibiotics for the infection, had an adverse reaction to the antibiotics which caused me to have an intestinal obstruction and emergency medical intervention.

The lawsuit (available here)doesn't describe his "medical" injuries but says they were the proximate result of eating the sandwich. (After reading the horror stories, you'll see why he wouldn't want to broadcast the details.) During settlement negotiations before the lawsuit was filed, the defendant companies probably wouldn't accept responsibility for the intestinal damage caused by the antibiotic, insisting it wasn't their fault. It sounds like today they've changed their mind, and are at least willing to pay his medical expenses associated with the treatment.

I don't think this is a silly or frivolous lawsuit at all. Nor do I understand people belittling Kucinich over it. I do wonder if he's also going to sue the drug manufacturer or the dentist who prescribed the antibiotic, or whether he reached a settlement with them to avoid a lawsuit. In any event, although I'm speculating, I wonder if the intestinal issues from whatever antibiotic he was prescribed were largely to blame and the stumbling block to a pre-lawsuit settlement.

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    Patting self on back (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by brodie on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 05:27:11 PM EST
    a bit for standing up for Dennis and his suit the other day, not even aware of the grisly magnitude of the injuries which, because I'm a tooth-sensitive person and have to visit my dentist again soon for another regular visit, I've still only read at a glance while trying to distract my mind from focusing too much on the painful details ...

    And this one turns out to have a little bit of the flavor of the McDonald's hot coffee suit of years ago, which also got laughed at initially by the knee-jerk anti-lawsuit crowd until the actual facts were revealed.

    No kidding (none / 0) (#15)
    by gyrfalcon on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 11:54:51 PM EST
    The injuries from that McDonald's hot coffee incident are absolutely horrifying.  There's one where a big, fat, even monstrous "pain and suffering" award would not be enough to compensate for it.

    I had a variation (5.00 / 2) (#14)
    by ruffian on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 06:42:59 PM EST
    of the cracked tooth through to the bone issue, minus the infection. Costed me about 15k in dental bills over five years to fix it for good. I'm written up in journals! So I never thought it was a frivolous suit. sometimes it takes a suit to get them to the table to pay the bills. Unfortunately I couldn't sue my parents for the slate floor I smashed it on when I was a kid!

    Well. I must say (4.00 / 3) (#10)
    by jimakaPPJ on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 06:13:13 PM EST
    you all have made some biting comments.

    Thanks for the insight... (none / 0) (#1)
    by kdog on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 04:59:54 PM EST
    he shoulda been suing the antibiotic manufacturer imo...it's not the cafeteria's fault his dentist sold him on some prescription poison, that's too big a leap of liability.

    I guess I just expect an olive pit to squeeze by once in awhile...watch what you eat.  And watch what your prescribed especially.

    Not to pick on Kuch too much, I do like the dept. of peace, but if it wasn't covered ya don't need it right?  It's cosmetic.  Not my joke, thats an insurance company original...there's a new cause for him.

    It's called tort liability. (none / 0) (#2)
    by oculus on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 05:03:53 PM EST
    Who grew the olive.... (none / 0) (#4)
    by kdog on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 05:14:23 PM EST
    there is your culprit.

    Though I did judge him harshly, sounds pretty messed up.  That antibiotic especially.


    Whose negligence permitted the olive (none / 0) (#5)
    by oculus on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 05:15:36 PM EST
    pit to be in the food?

    I'd say the first person (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by CoralGables on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 06:03:40 PM EST
    to grow an olive tree. My quick google research says the middle east. Perhaps we need to wean ourselves off foreign pits.

    Zero olive pits... (none / 0) (#7)
    by kdog on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 05:32:27 PM EST
    is a tough standard, but fair enough.

    What do olive pits have to do with a drug that causes intestinal damage?


    Is it reasonable to anticipate a (none / 0) (#8)
    by oculus on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 05:34:27 PM EST
    person who bits down on an olive pit will need dental work, ingest antibiotics, have an adverse effect to antibiotics and/or the antibiotics are ineffective?

    You are one tough cookie, kdog (none / 0) (#11)
    by christinep on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 06:13:15 PM EST
    The phrase used and re-used in these types of cases if "but for...."  "But for" this, that wouldn't have happened. Proximate cause, and all that.

    So you're saying... (none / 0) (#16)
    by kdog on Sat Jan 29, 2011 at 09:02:31 AM EST
    we can all sue our mothers under tort liabiity for every bad thing that ever happens to us?

    But for being born, everything happened.

    I'm wondering if the cafeteria was just the easy legal target for the wrong done to D.K. by that antibiotic...pharmie outfits have deep pocket legal teams.


    If the pit had "squeezed by" (none / 0) (#12)
    by Towanda on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 06:16:36 PM EST
    there would be no dental, medical, or legal issue.

    I bit down on piece of food that was supposed to be deboned, was not, cracked a tooth this way, ended up with a root canal, etc.  And at other times, I have had horrible reactions to medications prescribed by dentists, until I found out that many of them don't keep up with the literature -- antibiotics that caused severe reactions, meds that cause blood pressure to rise and never ought to be given to someone with hypertension already, etc.  

    In no one of those cases did I endure the series of disasters that Kucinich did, but I entirely empathize with him after the several different disasters I had -- and so I am glad when someone takes action that may serve to warn restaurants and people given power to prescribe medications who don't do due diligence.

    (I now doublecheck on every prescription from dentists or others with my internist first.)


    I've cracked a tooth... (none / 0) (#17)
    by kdog on Sat Jan 29, 2011 at 09:15:58 AM EST
    on a potato chip of all things, I just assumed I have sh*tty teeth...runs in the family.

    Taking a cue from J's speculation, for all we know the caf was willing to do right by their customer for the cracked tooth, but the poisonous antibiotic clouded the matter...the cafeteria shouldn't be held responsible for the shoddy drug making of a pharmie co.

    And I guess I just assume living things who eat are gonna crack teeth as part of the cost of doing business on planet earth, the assumed risk of eating olives or anything that once contained a pit. I mean it wasn't a real foreign object like a nail or a screw, it was a pit.

    Where as an assumption one will have violent intestinal problems from the latest wonder drug is a far tougher sell.  I know I'm weird:)


    The lawsuit wasn't frivolous. But, I (none / 0) (#3)
    by oculus on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 05:09:44 PM EST
    do think the situation in Egypt is much more newsworthy today.

    that's why we have (none / 0) (#13)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 06:39:57 PM EST
    open threads, where you can write about what interests you when we don't.

    I guess it was not (none / 0) (#18)
    by Capt Howdy on Sat Jan 29, 2011 at 09:59:17 AM EST
    but the optics were pretty bad.  I think my original comment said something like he finds new ways to make himself look ridiculous.  I think it looked sort of ridiculous to the legally unsophisticated of us.
    did he try to get them to pay for his dental bills and discomfort?  if he did and they refused that would be different.  I dont honestly care enough to google.  my comment was not really about the legitimacy of the suit but the optics of it in this litigation mad world we live in where every other tv commercial is soliciting vehicles for corporate lawsuits.

    From the link to USAToday (none / 0) (#19)
    by talesoftwokitties on Sat Jan 29, 2011 at 01:12:34 PM EST
    "None of his dental work, he said, was covered by his health plan nor did he have dental insurance that covered his injury."

    I am very surprised that a US Congressman has such a crappy dental plan. How can that not be covered with some sort of deductible?

    It's "cosmetic"... (none / 0) (#20)
    by kdog on Sat Jan 29, 2011 at 02:50:05 PM EST
    I'm with you, it makes no sense, but that's the ins co loophole...pulling it is probably covered, after that you're on your own.

    Sounds like an issue our legislature should maybe look at if they repeal and re-do health care...time to roll teeth into the rest of the body...no more red-headed stepchild status.


    Congress (none / 0) (#21)
    by Zorba on Sat Jan 29, 2011 at 04:37:19 PM EST
    participates in the same health care plans that other federal workers do (with the huge exception that they have access to taxpayer-subsidized care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD, plus they can get primary and urgent care at the Office of the Attending Physician for an annual fee of $503.  Link.).  Dental care for federal workers in the available plans is minimal- if they want extra, they have to pay extra for special dental plans.  Apparently, Kucinich did not buy the extra dental care.  (Full disclosure:  my husband is a federal employee, and we don't buy the extra-cost dental care.  If one of us had broken a tooth in the same circumstances and required all the extra procedures that Kucinich had to undergo, we would have sued, too.)

    Thanks for the info (none / 0) (#22)
    by talesoftwokitties on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 11:17:38 AM EST
    That clears it up for me!