Dental injury is a "serious impairment of bodily function"
Brian Fisher was stopped at a stoplight when he was rear-ended by Derrick Blankenship. His face struck the steering wheel and among other minor injuries, he lost a tooth. Ultimately, his dentist concluded that when the traumatic injury was combined with other pre-existing dental problems, the 42-year old Fisher needed to remove 14 of his upper teeth and replace them with a prosthesis. Fisher did not lose much work and still engaged in all of his normal activities, however, he noted that his appearance was changed, that some days it took him 45 minutes to an hour to adjust the prosthesis, that it sometime made him drool and altered his speech, and that he experienced difficulty eating certain foods. He also testified that it created a "severe gag reflex" and was often painful, awkward and frustrating. Two judges of the Court of Appeals agreed with the lower court that Fisher's injuries constituted a "serious impairment" and a "permanent disfigurement," even though the impact of the injuries was diminished by the prosthesis.
Judge Kirsten Kelly, who tends to favor the interests of insurers, noted that Fisher "remains employed,"..."takes no medication"..."continues to engage in his favorite hobby"...and "his weight has remained constant." Citing these facts and others, she would have dismissed Fisher's claim as neither "serious" nor a "serious disfigurement."