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Wisdom tooth extraction damages ex-chef’s taste buds; dentist to pay S$105,000 in compensation

SINGAPORE — A botched wisdom tooth extraction procedure in 2013 left a young chef, who had worked in several Michelin-starred restaurants around the world, with malfunctioning taste buds.

SINGAPORE — A botched wisdom tooth extraction procedure in 2013 left a young chef, who had worked in several Michelin-starred restaurants around the world, with malfunctioning taste buds.

Mr Pawel Gajewski, an Australian, was then the 28-year-old head chef of Tippling Club, a fine-dining restaurant in Singapore.

After the procedure, which lasted three hours, he was unable to taste or discern texture or temperature on the right side of his tongue. Chances of recovery remain slim to zero.

He then sued the dentist, Dr Lee Tong Lynn.

In his judgment released on Tuesday (Sept 3), Deputy Registrar Hairul Hakkim awarded Mr Gajewski S$75,000 for loss of earning capacity. Dr Lee will also have to pay Mr Gajewski S$30,000 in general damages for pain and suffering, and S$2,066 in special damages for medical and transportation expenses.

Mr Gajewski’s claim of A$144,000 (S$135,321) for loss of future earnings, however, was rejected by Deputy Registrar Hairul.

Mr Gajewski had been working as a professional chef since he was 19. In December 2015, he was forced to resign from the Tippling Club — located along Tanjong Pagar Road — because of his injury.

Some of the top restaurants he has worked at include Guy Savoy and L’Atelier in Paris.

The now 32-year-old currently runs his own business in Australia, providing freelance consultancy services to clients intending to open restaurants.

UNABLE TO MEANINGFULLY CONTINUE AS CHEF

In his submissions to the court, Mr Gajewski argued that if his taste buds had not been compromised, he would likely have continued working at the Tippling Club or worked in other fine-dining restaurants

His consultancy business paid “considerably less” than at the restaurant, he said. He was earning S$4,350 a month at the time of the botched extraction on April 23, 2013.

On that day, the procedure at Dr Lee’s clinic in one-north grew complicated as Mr Gajewski’s tooth could not be extracted. Still, Dr Lee tried to extract it for about three hours and caused the permanent tongue injury.

The deputy registrar allowed Mr Gajewski’s claim for loss of earning capacity as “he would clearly not be as competent in this job as another chef who has fully functioning taste buds”.

Two of Mr Gajewski’s former colleagues from the Tippling Club recounted how he was affected. His sous-chef tested him with two dishes — an extremely salty one and an unsalted one — and discovered that he was unable to tell them apart.

The ability to taste is an “integral aspect” of a chef’s job, and “for a chef to lose even part of his sense of taste is devastating”, the sous-chef stated.

Deputy Registrar Hairul found that Mr Gajewski was “unable to meaningfully continue” in his career as a chef “for which he had remarkable talent and skill”.

“Although he has now embarked on a new path as a consultant, the realities and challenges of business management, which are new to him, could place him at a risk of unemployment in the future whereupon he would be at a clear disadvantage for competing for the job, let alone as a head chef,” the registrar noted.

He also stressed that the award for loss of earning capacity was meant to compensate Mr Gajewski for the "debilitated ability" to compete in the market for his pre-accident job.

In rejecting the claims for loss of future earnings, Deputy Registrar Hairul pointed to the lack of evidence showing his post-accident income, such as the lack of income tax statements or financial accounting statements from his consultancy business.

 

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dentist Tippling Club court

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