Dozens of parents have joined multiple lawsuits against a now-defunct dental chain, stemming from a bacterial outbreak traced to a polluted water system in its Anaheim office that sickened dozens of children.
There are now 113 plaintiffs in a series of lawsuits against the Children's Dental Group, the most recent of which was filed Wednesday, said attorney Dan Hodes.
"We expect it to grow to about 150," Hodes said. All of the cases are being consolidated and will go to trial before the same Orange County Superior Court judge.
"The thrust of the case is this was an example of predatory dentistry," Hodes said. "This was about a corporate dental group forcing on their dentists production quotas, which in turn caused those dentists to do hundreds, if not thousands, of unnecessary baby tooth root canal procedures largely for money."
Attorney John Kelly, who represents the defendants, said, "Nothing new here. We are aware of these cases."
In 2016, a bacterial outbreak in the Anaheim office at 2156 E. Lincoln Ave. sickened dozens of children ranging in age from 2 to 11. Orange County Healthcare Agency officials concluded the bacteria came from the dental office's water system, so they forced the clinic to install new plumbing.
As of July 2017, the agency reported there were 73 cases claimed with 22 confirmed and 51 probable. Seventy-two of the patients required hospitalization.
"The problem is CDG also did not properly disinfect water lines, so their water was contaminated with a deadly mycobacterium," Hodes said.
The children infected "suffered life-altering injuries," Hodes said.
Some lost portions of their jaw and adult teeth, and some suffered hearing loss, "which is not uncommon as a reaction to the antibiotics that were used," Hodes said.
Many now have a "fear of doctors and dentists and a fear of needles," Hodes said. "This is serious stuff for a kid. This is not what kids should endure in childhood."
The Children's Dental Group, which operated nine offices in Southern and Northern California, "no longer exists because of this," Hodes said.
Children's Dental Group was sold to another chain, and the Anaheim office was sold to a separate dental company, he said.
A series of bellwether lawsuits are expected to begin to go to trial in January 2020.