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Romanucci & Blandin attorneys Michael R. Grieco and Joseph E. Kolar win $1.3 million verdict in dental malpractice case

January 19, 2023

Patient died following routine procedure after suffering a cardiac event and dentist did not use lifesaving AED or CPR

CHICAGO (January 19, 2023) – Romanucci & Blandin, LLC, a national personal injury firm primarily based in Chicago, announces a $1.3 million verdict reached today in a dental malpractice case. The jury decision was reached today in the Circuit Court of Cook County, with Judge Robert E. Senechalle, Jr. presiding.  This case involved the death of 68-year-old Cathy Leyser, who died on August 28, 2017, following a routine dental procedure on August 23, 2017.  Her dentist administered a local anesthesia which caused the patient to have a cardiac arrest.  The patient had a manageable heart condition and a pacemaker, but the dentist was not aware. The dentist, Dr. Gloria Chen, did not perform CPR on the patient nor did she use the AED resuscitation device in her Chicago Gold Coast dental office, despite being trained in both. Ms. Leyser did not receive basic resuscitation efforts from Dr. Chen for 12 minutes.  When paramedics arrived, they began CPR and shocked Ms. Leyser to restart her heart.  However, the 12 minutes of inaction by Dr. Chen caused a significant brain injury which lead to her death several days later. 

The plaintiff was Leyser’s sister, JoEllen McHugh, who was represented by Romanucci & Blandin Senior Attorney Michael R. Grieco and Partner Joseph E. Kolar.

Attorneys proved that Ms. Leyser had a strong heart, despite her condition, and medical experts say the electrical shock from an AED would almost certainly have restored her heartbeat and saved her life. The timing of this trial was ironic in that it coincided with the recent cardiac arrest and life-saving medical treatment of NFL player Damar Hamlin, who had a cardiac event during a football game, but whose life was saved by the swift response of medical experts.

“This verdict is important justice for the family of Cathy Leyser, and sends a clear message to all kinds of medical offices - that having the proper AED equipment, a staff trained in CPR  and the readiness to use those life-saving tools is essential. Dr. Chen was Basic Life Support (BLS) certified as part of her dental qualifications but simply chose not to apply her training. Patients place incredible trust in their healthcare providers, and in this tragic case that trust was violated,” said Romanucci & Blandin Senior Attorney Michael R. Grieco.

“This case and the death of Cathy Leyser, simply should not have happened.  This dentist chose to work alone, despite guidance to always have two people in a medical/dental office for when an AED is used. Our evidence showed this dentist also failed to have a written emergency plan, as required by the Illinois Dental Practice Act, to guide what would take place in an emergency. Further, Ms. Leyser had been a patient of Dr. Chen for more than 20 years, yet Dr. Chen was not aware of her patient’s full health history or heart condition, and the lack of action in each case contributed to Ms. Leyser’s death” said Romanucci & Blandin Partner Joseph E. Kolar.

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About Romanucci & Blandin, LLC

Romanucci & Blandin is a Chicago-based national trial practice committed to fighting for victims of negligence, abuse and wrongful death. For 25 years, we have secured more than $850 million in verdicts and settlements for our clients - many for millions of dollars and others record-setting awards.  Our experience ranges from mass shootings, civil rights and police misconduct to medical malpractice, sexual abuse, motor vehicle accidents or workplace injury cases involving individual or institutional negligence. Romanucci & Blandin is a valuable legal resource to individuals and groups of people who have been injured by others’ wrongdoing. Referring attorneys and clients say several factors differentiate our firm: Our record of success, depth of experience, talented and dedicated legal team, tireless preparation and strategic use of communications to fight for the rights of those whose lives have been changed forever. We are different from other personal injury firms in that our work does not stop when a verdict or settlement is secured.  We are often inspired by our clients’ experiences and commit resources to create change in our communities. For more information about Romanucci & Blandin, please visit or call (312) 458-1000.

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