JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An embattled Southside pediatric dentist has been served with a class action lawsuit, News4Jax learned Thursday.
The lawsuit said Dr. Howard S. Schneider got some sort of sexual gratification from hurting children and that he set up a practice to get Medicaid children in who would be easier victims.
The allegations in the suit are horrifying, saying Dr. Howard Schneider is "a pathological sadist" who has a "deep need to inflict pain, torture, mutilate and humiliate. Which has driven him to create a specialized dental "practice," which, by its very design and structure, provided him with a constant supply of especially defenseless, indigent, children to victimize."
Rhonda People-Waters, an attorney not affiliated with the case, said it would be difficult for the plaintiffs in the case to prove the allegations.
"His lawyers are first going to attack the age of some of these claims, which is going to be a huge issue and then certainly medically he's going to be able to assert whatever procedure it was he was performing," People-Waters said.
The attorney listed is Gust Sarris, who represents Brandi Motley, the mother who started the social media campaign to have Schneider investigated.
Lt. Michael Maloney, with the Florida Attorney General's Office, came to Jacksonville last last month to investigate claims of Medicaid fraud against Schneider.
Maloney, who works in the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, said he was in town to gather information. He said there was no reason to believe Schneider did anything wrong, but the state is doing a full investigation. Jacksonville police are also looking into claims of abuse at Schneider's pediatric dental practice on University Boulevard.
John Phillips, a lawyer representing other past patients of Schneider, questions the validity of the lawsuit based on the way that medical malpractice suits need to be filed and the fact that it was filed on behalf of children.
"They've focused that lawsuit on the intentional acts of Dr. Schneider, trying to carve it out of the medical act, and case law is pretty clear. Cases against medical services can't proceed. And children filed the lawsuit when an adult has to file the lawsuit. So they didn't even get that right," Phillips said.
Parents and children protesting outside the office said Schneider was abusive toward them, was rude and cursed at them. Some claim to have permanent damage from his procedures.
"The cap that he put on, I can't even eat on that side now," 10-year-old Joss Whitten said. "Whenever I eat on that side or drink any water it's like swelling up a lot."
Schneider told News4Jax that the complaints are unfounded. He said he follows proper protocol with all his patients, and he's upset people are trying to ruin his name.
"If you are going to treat kids, they are going to bite their lips," he said. "We tell parents, 'Be careful with the lips, because they do this.' That's a common thing in pediatric dentistry."
There were also a lot of people who've known Schneider for a long time who were sticking up for him, saying they had nothing but good experiences with Schneider.
"It's sad," Nicole Black said. "Some people just take one little thing and take it to far. I think as a community we need to get together and stop blaming people for the simple little things. Of course you're going to have bruises after you get an injection or something like that. This man is not like that."
Schneider said that he was very upset about the allegations and had hired an attorney to fight them.
How the uproar started
The mother who started the social media campaign against Schneider said she decided to post to Facebook what happened to her child in December. Within a few hours of her post, dozens of parents flooded the News4Jax newsroom with calls and emails about Schneider, whose pediatric dental practice is on University Boulevard.
Brandi Motley claims her daughter went in to get one tooth fixed but ended up with a mouthful of problems.
"She's been going to the dentist since she was 2, and she's never had any teeth problems, no decaying no cavities, and now all of a sudden her whole mouth is messed up because of him," Motley said.
Her Facebook post sparked outrage and a protest outside Schneider's offices. Around lunchtime Wednesday, when Schneider pulled out of the back parking lot, protesters screamed at him and bottles were thrown at his car.
Motley said she never expected so many parents to have similar stories.
"I want his doors locked. It's my goal," Motley said. "It's not about the money. It's not about anything, I'm my child's voice, and I will speak for her, Mason and the other kids that were hurt and that's all I can do."
Motley said she wasn't allowed into the procedure room while Schneider was working on her daughter in December. She said the nurse came into the waiting room three hours later and told her there had been an accident. Motley said the nurse told her to take her child to the emergency room, but she said the story the nurse told her didn't match with the story her daughter told her.
"(My daughter) said the man doctor threw her and the lady doctor picked her back up and they were laughing and sat on her while the lady was slapping her on the face while he was choking her and that's when they pulled her teeth," Motley said.
Five parents at the protest Wednesday told News4Jax their kids were severely mistreated -- either strapped down to boards, forced to endure having teeth pulled that didn't need to be pulled or operated on without sedation. Some even said their kids came out of Schneider's office bloody and bruised.
Motley said she can't say whether any of the other parents' stories are true or not but said if they think their kid was abused, they need to get a lawyer, like she did, and press charges.
Schneider told News4Jax that the allegations of abuse are untrue and that his practice will remain open.
He blames one woman who might have had a bad experience for prompting people to write bad reviews and make accusations. He said every child that has come into his office has had nothing but the best treatment. He said he has been in Jacksonville for nearly 50 years and doesn't deserve the backlash.
News4Jax checked and Schneider's license is clear, and he has no reported actions against his license.