Dr. David Hayward arrived in Pine Valley around Thanksgiving 1997 to reclaim the love of Dr. Allison Doyle. When Allie, who was happily in love with Jake Martin, rejected David, he set out to get Jake out of the way. He framed Jake by giving stroke patient Adam Chandler the wrong medication almost killing him. David arrived "just in time" having noticed the error and administered the correct drug, "saving" Adam. Jake was suspended from the hospital, but he and Allie knew David had set up the scheme. Allie teamed up with Stuart Chandler and Liza Colby to trap David, and the three of them maneuvered David into trying to kill Adam again Ė this time, capturing the scene on tape. David backed down from the deed, but did confess to having set up Jake; he confessed to having given Adam the wrong drug, Jake was cleared, and David left town.
David returned to Pine Valley in time for the Fourth of July party at Holidays. After the explosion there, he helped save Liza's life with an injection directly into her heart. Later, David secretly helped Dixie deal with a serious heart ailment and to show his gratitude, Palmer got David reinstated at Pine Valley Hospital. David became interested in Liza, and when she became pregnant through artificial insemination, he unraveled Adamís secret: Adam had switched Jakeís sperm with his own in order to impregnate Liza without her knowledge. David admitted to Adam that he knew the secret, and planned to reveal it to all of Pine Valley at Stuart and Marianís wedding, but on the way back to Pine Valley with Erica, he crashed his car. Erica was badly hurt when a piece of metal nicked her heart, but David was able to save her. He was not able to prevent horrible scarring on her face, however, and tried to prevent her from discovering the extent of the damage.
Meanwhile, David mother, Vanessa Bennett, had arrived in Pine Valley. David was nearby when she suffered a heart attack, and he did nothing to save her life. She maintained that she had come to him out of love and for help with her heart condition, but he believed that she was simply out of money and accused her of goading his father into suicide. Vanessa decided to get back at David by telling Erica about the damage to her face.
David recommended that Erica see Dr. Fascinello, a Brazilian plastic surgeon and a friend of his, but when he innocently remarked that Erica would one day look back on her face tragedy and laugh, she decided to capture David and kept him with his hand locked in a vise in her basement. She claimed that by harming his hand, his surgical tool, she would make him understand how he had destroyed her life in the car accident. While captive, David shared with Erica the story of his fatherís suicide, and she decided that ruining him was not going to make her feel any better, so she let him go. David later decided against revealing the truth about Lizaís babyís paternity, then went with Erica to Brazil to have her reconstructive surgery. The two fell in love on the trip.
Davidís younger brother Leo appeared in Pine Valley shortly thereafter, and David was instrumental in setting up their mother Vanessa to confess to the accidental killing of gigolo Paolo, a crime for which Leo had been blamed.
David has hired his friend Dixie as his office assistant and, with the help of Alex Devane, saved the life of Dimitri Marick. Unfortunately, shortly after proposing marriage to Erica, that relationship fell apart when they realized they just couldnít give one another what each needed Ė unconditional love and trust.