Lawyer: Parents allege 'sadistic' abuse by dentist
Lawyer says more plaintiffs could be added in lawsuit against pediatric dentist
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A local lawyer is speaking out about a lawsuit that he filed on behalf of four parents against a Jacksonville pediatric dentist accused of mistreating and abusing his patients for decades.
News4Jax first reported on the allegations against Dr. Howard S. Schneider early last week.
Dozens of parents and former patients say he abused their children in the chair, intentionally causing pain and leaving some with permanent damage.
Attorney Gust Sarris said he felt compelled to file the suit and to do it quickly, because the allegations are so serious and so shocking.
He said he's spoken to about 60 people so far who claim either they or their family members were abused when they were patients of Schneider's. Some claim that they're scarred for life. In the lawsuit, the attorney called it "easily the most egregious case of sadistic and serial child abuse" he's ever encountered.
"The reason why we filed it so quickly is we wanted to put the public on notice, let people know what was happening, and that there was help for these victims. And we did that first," Sarris said. "It is unheard of for a doctor to be practicing for 47 years and people report atrocities all the way through that time frame."
Sarris served Schneider with the paperwork on Wednesday, a little more than a week since the dentist came under fire.
The first allegations gained social media attention last week after a parent's Facebook post. Parents were still protesting Friday in front of Schneider's office on University Boulevard.
It's been heated between Schneider and the protesters. He's called the police on them several times, and several women said Friday afternoon that they had to call officers on Schneider, because he almost hit them with his car. They said something needs to be done.
Denise Hammock has been out protesting every day.
"I'm out here because I know of 17 people that were abused by this man," Hammock said.
She said Schneider abused her own daughter several years ago, and he has to be stopped.
"I just want him not to be able to hurt any more children in this community. That is all I want," Hammock said.
Sarris said he plans to update the lawsuit and add more victims. He said it could soon be a class-action case with more than 100 families.
"The claims are atrocious," Sarris said. "It gets to the point where it's actually hard to talk to these children sometimes, or their parents, because of the pain or injury they had.
"People who do these types of things are incredibly methodical. He was picking on mostly single mothers -- although we have some families -- who have limited resources, who are on Medicaid, who many have handicaps, the parents and the children."
Parents like Hammock said they hope the lawsuit shuts Schneider down for good.
"It's about time," Hammock said. "I will be here until the day they make an arrest."
The Florida Attorney General's Office is investigating Schneider for possible insurance fraud. They said the case is still open.
So far, the Florida Department of Health said Schneider's dentist's license is current and valid.
News4Jax left a message at Schneider's office Friday to get his side of the story. So far, we haven't heard back.
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