EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was updated Monday, Dec. 17 to include additional allegations against Dr. James C. LaJevic, including breach of contract, and features links to Superior Court documents and state dental board statements from Pennsylvania, Nevada and California.
ENCINITAS — A Rancho Santa Fe dentist with a history of criminal and ethical violations faces accusations of dental malpractice by a patient of his Encinitas-based clinic, Correct Choice Dental Group.
James Charles LaJevic, 71, is accused of professional negligence after performing a wisdom tooth extraction on Jan. 22 for patient Christiana Simoni, causing “a nerve injury” known as parasthesia that resulted in numbness, pain and ongoing medical care, according to a civil complaint filed on Dec. 4 in Vista Superior Court.
No further details on the alleged incident were provided in court filings.
“I’m very confident it’s a frivolous situation,” LaJevic said in a phone interview with The Coast News. “I did everything possible postoperatively to help her. It’s not like we abandoned her. And there is no clinical evidence backing her claim.”
LaJevic said he was shocked when he learned that Simoni had not yet received a medical diagnosis to support her claim.
“(Malpractice claims) are a very sensitive thing,” LaJevic said. “Don’t you think attorneys should have their ducks in a row before they make accusations? Don’t you see this as a bit irresponsible?”
But after looking into the most recent allegations against LaJevic, The Coast News uncovered a well-documented trail of misconduct spanning his decades-long career.
Shortly after graduating the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine in 1974, LaJevic started private practice in Pennsylvania.
In 1988, LaJevic was convicted on three counts of felony tax-evasion in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania and sentenced to three years in a “jail-type institution” followed by 34 months of probation.
The Pennsylvania State Board of Dentistry later charged LaJevic with 47 alleged violations including practicing dentistry with an expired license, taking office drugs for personal use, patient harassment, keeping inadequate records of controlled substances and abandoning a patient mid-treatment.
The board found “sufficient evidence” to sustain 12 of the 47 allegations and suspended his license for two years in 1994, stating that “Dr. LaJevic’s continued practice of dentistry in the Commonwealth was an immediate and clear danger to the public health or safety,” according to court documents.
Around the same time, the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General Bureau of Narcotics Investigations had launched its own inquiry into LaJevic.
Pennsylvania law enforcement agents learned that the dentist was filling prescriptions for Valium and a narcotic cough syrup for “office use” with an expired Drug Enforcement Agency Certificate of Registration, a mandatory federal credential that allows medical practitioners to write prescriptions for controlled substances.
Following the state’s investigation, the Dental Board suspended LaJevic’s dental license indefinitely in 2001 after discovering that he had falsified renewal applications for his expired DEA certificate.
LaJevic “consistently argued that he did not intentionally answer the liability questions incorrectly” and claimed that he had misread a question on the application, according to a revocation of registration statement by DEA Deputy Administrator Donnie R. Marshall.
In February 2011, the Pennsylvania dental board granted a full reinstatement of LaJevic’s dental license after completion of clinical re-examination and passing a specified ethics exam.
Despite a return to good standing, it wasn’t long before the embattled practitioner was once again under scrutiny by a state dental board, this time in Clark County, Nevada.
By the end of 2011, LaJevic and his partner Lori Werder had opened two new locations in Las Vegas offering traditional and cosmetic dental services – Correct Choice and Nadic Network North American Dental Implants and Cosmetics.
According to a verified complaint filed in District Court by the Nevada State Board of Dental Examiners, LaJevic and Werder were practicing dentistry without a state-issued license.
The longtime couple reached a stipulation agreement with the court, admitting no wrongdoing and paying a $7,000 fine.
But additional fallout from Nevada has followed LaJevic and Werder to North County.
The Coast News recently learned that both LaJevic and Werder were ordered to enter mediation by Superior Court Judge Earl H. Maas III following a breach of contract complaint filed earlier this year by a former landlord of the couple’s dental practice, NADIC Network, LLC, located at West Tropicana Plaza in Las Vegas.
The plaintiff, Stanley R Zimmerman Revocable Trust, alleges that the defendants defaulted under the terms of their contract and owe $70,996 in unpaid rent plus 18 percent interest since Nov. 16, 2016.
According to the Superior Court case docket, a civil jury trial is scheduled for July 26, 2019
LaJevic applied for a dental license and oral maxillofacial surgery permit with the Dental Board of California and was granted a probationary license on Oct. 16, 2015 — for three years — and has since obtained a full California dental license.
The conditional license was issued upon completion of “all licensing requirements” and passing the Western Regional Examining Board, a national dental testing agency.
LaJevic said he acknowledges his past mistakes and some of the allegations were blown out of proportion.
“I’m in the losers’ bracket,” LaJevic said. “I have no room to make mistakes. I’m like a Boy Scout out here in Encinitas and my dentistry is excellent. You’d have to put a gun to my head for me to do something like this. I should be considered innocent until proven guilty.”
LaJevic is required to report any malpractice settlements or arbitration awards to the state dental board, according to California Department of Consumer Affairs spokesman Matt Woodcheke.
Woodcheke further explained in an email response that “a person shall not be denied a license solely on the basis of a conviction of a felony or a misdemeanor if he/she has obtained a certificate of rehabilitation,” and that the “(Dental) Board examines all information and legal documents provided with the application before making a decision to deny or approve an applicant.”
At time of publication, LaJevic’s dental license is active and in good standing in California and Pennsylvania.