Family: Child dies days after appointment at Yuma dental office

YUMA, AZ - A heartbroken mother has filed a wrongful death complaint against a dental office in Yuma after the death of her child. 

This comes a day after ABC15 reported on the death of a different child, 2-year old Zion Jay Gastelum, a toddler who went to the Kool Smiles office in Yuma for a crown and filling. 

Zion's family told ABC15 their son stopped breathing during or after the procedure. The medical examiner's office reports the cause of death is still pending.

Now, a second death linked to the same dental office has been uncovered. 

Francisca Lares, the mother of 4-year old Lizeth Lares, says her child died after a dental procedure in February of 2016.

According to the family, the four year old little girl went into Kool Smiles for dental treatment to deal with an abscess, a tooth was pulled, and then she started showing signs of fever. 

The family took her back to the dentist the next day, but was sent home, reportedly told that the girl would be fine.

"The allegation in our case is the dentist, Kool Smiles, didn't comply with the standard of care and had they appropriately prescribed some antibiotics this could have been avoided," said Marco Mercaldo, with the Mercaldo Law Firm in Tucson.

According to court papers, the child died a few days later. 

Lares described her daughter as a bright, lively, and very smart young girl loved by her whole family, especially her grandparents.

"She was lovely. She was my mini-me. We all miss her a lot. She took half of my heart with her. They took something from me that will never come back. It is really hard to make peace with it," said Lares.

A spokesperson for Kool Smiles gave us this statement in relation to the death of Lizeth:

"The passing of Lizeth Lares is tragic and Kool Smiles expresses our deepest sympathy to the family.  However, Kool Smiles strongly denies the allegations contained in the complaint and maintains there was no relationship between the dental care provided by Kool Smiles and the child’s death. 

Lizeth Lares was brought to Kool Smiles by her mother on January 30, 2016, the day after Kool Smiles performed a routine tooth extraction. An examination of the extraction site was normal; however, it was noted that Lizeth was coughing and presented cold-like symptoms, and the parent was advised to take the child to a physician for further evaluation. 

Kool Smiles had no further contact with the patient. Kool Smiles later learned that the parents took the child to a doctor in Mexico two days later and the child subsequently died. Lizeth’s death was tragic. It was unrelated, however, to the treatment provided by Kool Smiles and to suggest otherwise is false."

Lares attorney Marco Mercaldo responded by saying:

"This is unfortunately nothing new and is simply a continuation of Kool Smiles' efforts to attempt to avoid responsibility for this tragic and completely unnecessary death. The dentists at Kool Smiles ignored clear signs of infection when they sent Lizeth's mom away without prescribing necessary antibiotics and ordering urgent medical follow-up. Lizeth's mom relied on the dentist's diagnosis of "cold" and was falsely reassured she had nothing to worry about. The infection continued to spread until it ultimately overwhelmed Lizeth, resulting in her death."

Lares told ABC15 she filed the wrongful death complaint to prevent other parents from going through the pain her family was suffering.

"I want to prevent what just happened again. I am not in it for the money. I am in it because I want them to pay attention to what they are doing. It is a great pain on families altogether. Even if I didn't win I thought if there was a lawsuit against them, they will start paying attention to what they are doing," said Lares.

A trial date is set for February, 2019.

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