Notice of class action against Bedford dentist alleges physical, psychological harm

·2 min read

A notice of a class-action lawsuit is expected to be filed Thursday against a Halifax-area dentist accused of causing "physical and significant psychological injury to several hundred young children" over 50 years.

The notice of action names Ryan Binder, the parent of a young patient; and Sunyata Choyce, who was a patient when she was a young girl, as the representative plaintiffs.

The lawsuit notice alleges assault and negligence by Dr. Errol Gaum, a longtime pediatric dentist whose licence was suspended following a Facebook post by Binder last month that was shared widely and sparked a slew of similar complaints.

Ryan Binder
Ryan Binder

Binder posted about the "unacceptable" treatment of his six-year-old daughter, Peyton, on Nov. 10, 2020, and is cited in the lawsuit's statement of claim.

The claim alleges Gaum placed his hand over Peyton's mouth and pinched her nose at the same time. When she cried for her grandmother, Gaum is alleged to have told her, "your grandmother is no longer here."

The document also includes historic allegations of abuse by former patients.

Choyce, now 41, went to Gaum's dental clinic several times in the early 1980s when she was around Peyton's age.

The statement of claim alleges Gaum would routinely make "intimidating and cruel comments" and tell her to "shut up and that he would hurt her more if she kept crying." It goes on to allege that he would grab her face, lean in, and "the sides of her lips would be ripped from her mouth being pried open too far."

Her mother was not allowed in the treatment room but could hear her screaming, according to the document.

The allegations in the notice of action are unproven.

They are also the subject of an assault investigation by Halifax Regional Police.

CBC
CBC

Lawyer Jamie MacGillivray said about 110 people have signed on to the class action, with another 200 files pending. Most of them are former patients who are now adults, he said.

He acknowledged the methods used in pediatric dentistry have evolved, but said in this case, "the behaviour management techniques aren't just outdated but ... they're totally wrong, maybe even cruel in some instances."

MacGillivray declined to provide a dollar value on the class action, but said if successful, each damage would be separately assessed.

Gaum's lawyer said he could not comment as he has not seen the court documents, which will be filed in Nova Scotia Supreme Court.

The lawsuit must be certified by a judge in order to proceed as a class action.