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KEATON v. MCCOOK

November 6, 1962

LOUIS BERNARD KEATON, A MINOR, BY WILLIAM T. KEATON, HIS FATHER AND NEXT FRIEND, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NORMA ETHELYN MCCOOK, TESTAMENTARY EXECUTRIX OF THE ESTATE OF WILLIE DALE MCCOOK, DECEASED, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John E. Miller, Chief Judge.

STATEMENT

This case arose from an automobile collision that occurred in Hempstead County, Arkansas, on November 13, 1961, between an automobile driven by the father of Louis Bernard Keaton, plaintiff, and an automobile driven by Willie Dale McCook, testate of defendant.

Liability was admitted by the defendant in open court, and the question of damages only was tried to the court on September 28, 1962. At the conclusion of the presentation of the testimony, the question was taken under advisement by the court subject to submission by the parties of briefs in support of their respective contentions. The briefs have been received, and the court, having considered the pleadings, the testimony adduced at the trial, the exhibits and briefs of counsel, now makes and files herein its findings of fact and conclusions of law, separately stated.

FINDINGS OF FACT

1.

2.

The plaintiff had prior to the time of the collision enjoyed good health and had pursued all the normal activities of a child of 12 years of age. At the time of the collision the plaintiff was riding in the front seat of his father's automobile, and at the instant of impact the plaintiff was thrown forward, his chin and forehead striking the dashboard of the automobile. He was knocked unconscious, and the most serious injury that he sustained, the extent of which is at issue in the present case, was the splitting open of his chin and a fracture in two places of his lower jaw.

The plaintiff was taken to a hospital in Hope, Arkansas, where he was treated generally for all of the injuries he sustained and was administered medication to alleviate his pain. At this time due to the double fracture of plaintiff's lower jaw, it was immobilized with a temporary brace. Plaintiff remained at the hospital in Hope for six days. He then returned to his home where he remained for ten days. During this time he could neither eat nor talk, and he endured a considerable amount of pain and suffering notwithstanding the medication which was administered to him. At the end of this 16-day period plaintiff was taken to Texarkana, where his jaw was X-rayed to ascertain the extent and location of the fractures in his lower jaw. The X-ray photographs revealed that the mandible or the lower jawbone was broken on each side at the necks of its condyles, which are the heads or connecting balls of the mandible which connect to the skull at the locations known as the temporal sockets.

In Texarkana treatment was begun under the supervision of Dr. Patterson, a dentist, who, after consulting with Dr. Noble, an oral surgeon, undertook to restore the fractured lower jaw to its original position, with relation to the placement of the condyles in the temporal sockets and the restoration of the proper occlusion, or alignment of the teeth, by the placement of metal braces around the upper and lower teeth and securing them into place by threading wire through the braces into the gums and around the imbedded roots of the teeth and out again through the gums to the braces on the other side. The braces impounding the lower jaw were affixed to the braces secured to the upper jaw by means of elastic ligatures. These braces remained in place with the upper and lower teeth incapable of separation for approximately 75 days, at which time the elastic ligatures were removed but the braces remained in place for an additional two weeks. During the 75-day period that the plaintiff's jaws were shut, his only nourishment consisted of various liquid preparations and the only time that his mouth was opened was when he went to Dr. Patterson for periodic examinations of his progress.

After 106 days from the time they were installed, the braces were removed. Needless to say, both the installation and the removal of the braces, as well as his first efforts to move his mouth, were painful to the plaintiff.

At the time of his accident the plaintiff weighed 140 pounds, and during the duration of his treatment he lost 22 pounds. After the braces were removed his diet was thereafter upgraded from liquids to strained baby foods, ground meat, and other soft food through which he progressed through six or seven months prior to the trial of this case. During this time he not only gained back the 22 pounds he had lost but he gained an additional 18 pounds.

3.

Plaintiff's response to treatment as of the date of trial may be classified both objectively and subjectively.

The objective findings, as shown by X-ray photographs of his temporomandibular joints, indicate that the fractures of the necks of the condyles have completely mended, and the only deformity noted is a slight bowing outward around the fracture area on each side of his lower jaw. As a result of this bowing at the base of the condyloid processes, the condyles have been angulated anteriorly bilaterally, which may have affected the natural gliding movement forward and backward of the condyles as the mouth opens and closes. Although the X-ray photographs indicate that the condyles have been returned to their proper places in the temporal sockets, yet there has been indicated an arthrosis or degenerative process which has taken place by which the sacs containing fluid, which act as cushions, in these particular joints are no longer present. As a result of this condition, plaintiff contends that when he moves his lower jaw to any extent, there occurs crepitation, i.e., a rubbing noise caused by the ends of the bones, or a "clicking" noise, and that the noise is especially noticeable when the jaw is opened wide, but admitted that there is no pain associated with this condition — just the sensation of the noise. The medical testimony disclosed that most persons, or at least many people, have the same "clicking" noise upon yawning or the lowering of the lower jaw to its limit.

At the present time, since the plaintiff enjoys proper occlusion, i.e., proper alignment of his teeth, and since there is no indication of the occurrence of traumatic arthritis in the temporal sockets, there is no further operative procedure required to be undergone by the plaintiff, merely an occasional ...


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