New claim filed against St. Helena dentist


Legal troubles are mounting for a St. Helena dentist accused by seven former patients of fraud and negligence.

Dr. Michael Njo was already facing four lawsuits filed against him by former patients claiming he lied about the work he did or performed shoddy dentistry that sent them to other dentists for expensive repairs. Then, late last month, another patient filed suit.

Rene Sfeir, Suzette Toft, Margaretha Neal, Jill and Dario Gambetta, and Steve and Michele Campbell have filed complaints against Njo in Napa County Superior Court in recent months, all brought by San Francisco lawyer June Bashant. Sfeir filed suit late last month, and a court date in the Gambetta case is scheduled for February.

Njo has denied wrongdoing in the Gambetta and Campbell cases, and has not filed court papers in the other cases. He did not respond to phone calls for this story.

According to the Dental Board of California, which regulates the practice of dentistry in California, Njo’s license is in good standing. The agency does not release information about patient complaints against dentists.

Njo’s Oakland-based attorney, Michael Treppa, cautioned that court-filed complaints were not necessarily established facts, but did not go into more detail.

Bashant did not return phone calls.

Court cases against the dentist have built up since September, when the Gambettas and the Campbells filed their lawsuits.

Jill Gambetta claims Njo conducted faulty work on six of her teeth, including the placement of one crown. Dario Gambetta claims Njo failed to correct eight teeth, exacerbating his periodontal disease at the time.

Steve Campbell claims Njo performed defective work on four of his teeth, while Michele Campbell said two of her teeth had shoddy work done of them, one so bad it had to be pulled out. Both claimed Njo lied to them about placing crowns on other teeth.

Toft filed suit in October, claiming Njo performed substandard work on five teeth, resulting in tooth and gum damage.

Neal filed suit in September, saying Njo damaged more than 20 of her teeth with poorly placed crowns, causing what she estimated would be about $70,000 in dental repairs. She said she had been a friend of Njo’s when she agreed to let him work on her teeth, eventually paying him $31,000 for his work.

“Because it was so much money I had to file suit against him,” she said after filing her complaint.

Sfeir alleges Njo lied to her about placing dental crowns on 11 of her teeth.

Treppa questioned the way the stories surfaced in the media, saying the media had been tipped off to the cases.

“It’s clear that they’ve taken an approach to defame him through the local newspaper,” he said.

But Njo is no stranger to civil court.

While working in Redwood City during the 1990s, Njo was the subject of three lawsuits.

Wells Fargo sued Njo for more than $56,000 it said it was owed. Njo’s former business partner, Dr. Arthur Manzo, sued Njo for money related to a dental school partnership.

Both of those cases were eventually dismissed. Treppa declined to say whether Njo had agreed to pay any financial settlements or agree to any other concessions before the cases were dismissed.

The dentist was cleared by the state dental board in connection with a 1997 case involving the death of 5-year-old Benjamin Shimshock. Njo had referred the boy to Dr. Marianne Truta for care. The boy died after Truta gave him anesthesia. The dental board investigated and revoked her license.

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