On August 9, 2011, Benjamin and Madeline Rodriquez sat in the waiting room of a West Palm Beach dental office. The couple's 5-year-old daughter, Briana, was inside for a cleaning.
When the little girl appeared, her eyes were streaming tears. Blood ringed her lips. Instead of a simple brushing, three teeth had been yanked from her small mouth, and eight fillings had been drilled into the remaining teeth.
"They were absolutely shocked and terrified," the couple's attorney, Casey Shomo, tells New Times. "As best as we can tell, the dentist thought my client was actually another patient with a similar name."
A mistake, maybe -- but the incident was just another entry in the long and twisted saga of Thomas Floyd.
For more than a decade, kids in Floyd's care have complained of abusive behavior. But state regulators and law enforcement acted only last year, ending Floyd's career in scrubs, but really handing him just a slap on the wrist. It seems little justice for a guy who literally embodied every kid's worst nightmare.
A September 2012 report from the Department of Health blasted Floyd for his tactics. The document tracked numerous occasions of abuse: There was the February 2012 incident in which the doctor shoved a blue bib into the mouth of a crying 7-year-old girl. When a 16-year-old boy was under Floyd's drill in March of the same year, the doctor grabbed the teen's head and held him down after the boy complained of pain. In October 2011, the dentist unsuccessfully tried to yank out a wisdom tooth because he didn't take an x-ray beforehand. A month later, Floyd performed a procedure on a 4-year-old boy; shortly after, when the child complained of pain and couldn't open his jaw, Floyd refused to see him. The boy was hospitalized with a massive infection.
"Dr. Floyd routinely controls a child's crying or squirming by covering a child's mouth and nose with his hand to prevent the child from breathing," the report concluded. "Furthermore, when a distressed or frightened child refuses to open his or her mouth, Dr. Floyd reportedly pinches the child's nose shut so that the child is forced to open his or her mouth to breathe."
The same summary, based on interviews with the dentist's current and former employees, found Floyd also flaunted sanitation guidelines, neglecting to change his gloves and using the same instruments on patients without sterilization.
Floyd was arrested in September 2012 after allegedly punching a 4-year-old boy under his care. As part of his plea agreement, the 62-year-old agreed never to practice dentistry again and to complete 150 hours of community service.
In return, the State Attorney's Office agreed not to nail Floyd for his other bad acts of dentistry. That leaves families like the Rodriquezes with little recourse for justice outside of the civil courts. Which is where the family plans to play this out. Last week, the couple filed a lawsuit against Floyd in Palm Beach County Court for negligence. It's the second such suit recently filed against the former dentist.
Attempts to reach Floyd were unsuccessful. A call to his lawyer, Michael Salnick, was not returned.