Dentist Drilled On Practices

Posted: December 10, 1992

A dentist suing ABC and "20/20" correspondent John Stossel for libel admitted under cross-examination yesterday that most of his patients are referred to him by negligence lawyers and that he finds a jaw problem in 99 percent of these patients.

Dr. Owen Rogal, who runs the "Pain Center" on Broad Street near Locust, also testified that he wrote a book, "Mandibular Whiplash," about temporomandibular joint problems (TMJ) sustained in auto accidents. In the book, he advises dentists and lawyers that "every accident has a TMJ component," he testified yesterday.

Rogal's federal lawsuit before U.S. District Judge Joseph L. McGlynn charges that ABC and Stossel libeled him in a March 24, 1989, segment called ''A Biting Pain" on the newsmagazine "20/20." The segment investigated insurance fraud by dentists who treat TMJ syndrome, an irritation of the jaw that has a wide range of causes, including car accidents.

Lawyer Jerome Shestack, representing ABC and Stossel, tried to paint Rogal as a dentist in an unholy alliance with negligence lawyers who refer clients to him in the certitude that Rogal will diagnose TMJ.

Shestack suggested that Rogal emphasized the permanence of the TMJ because it leads to greater jury awards in lawsuits.

Rogal, 52, an Atlantic City native who attended Temple University Dental School, testified that he has given his expert opinion in 7,000 insurance cases.

The "20/20" story depicted Rogal as a dentist who found TMJ in virtually every patient, including Stossel, who testified that several other dentists found that he did not have the syndrome.

Rogal claimed, among other things, that Stossel misrepresented his medical history during the examination by failing to tell him that a professional wrestler whomped him in the head during a story on professional wrestlers in 1984.

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