In 2019, the ADA filed a class action lawsuit against the Delta Dental Plans and the Delta Dental Plans Association, and in January, the federal district court for the Northern District of Illinois amended its scheduling order to allow the parties additional time to conduct discovery.
The earliest this case potentially could proceed to trial is now sometime in late 2025.
The case has now been pending for more than three years, but is still in its relatively early stages, said the ADA’s Division of Legal Affairs.
This extended timing is not unusual, said the division, as class action lawsuits typically take years to be resolved, especially complex antitrust cases. There are motions, extensive document productions, fact depositions, expert witnesses, a class certification hearing, and then additional discovery and various pre-trial motions — all before you even get to a trial, and potentially an appeal after the trial. The COVID-19 pandemic also impacted the timing of most court proceedings.
The ADA’s lawsuit alleges that Delta violated federal antitrust laws by allocating territories of operation and dividing the national market in order to restrict competition and reduce reimbursement amounts.
The complaint goes on to allege that Delta’s allegedly anticompetitive acts hurt both dentists and their patients by limiting the choices of dental care available to patients and making it more difficult for dentists to deliver the care that patients need and want.
Numerous individual dentists also filed class action complaints against Delta, and the allegations in the various complaints have since been combined into a single consolidated complaint . Judge Elaine Bucklo, in the federal district court, is presiding over the consolidated pretrial proceedings inthe litigation.
The Delta defendants filed a motion to dismiss the consolidated complaint, but Judge Bucklo issued an opinion denying Delta’s motion in September 2020.
With the discovery process ongoing, the parties are exchanging and reviewing voluminous amounts of documents as well as taking depositions relevant to the issue of class certification.
The court’s scheduling order allows the parties to take up to 190 fact depositions, followed by briefing and a hearing for the court to decide whether the case should proceed as a class action — which is an important milestone in any class action lawsuit, according to the ADA’s legal division.
The plaintiffs are asking the court to certify a class of all dental providers in the United States who were reimbursed by a Delta Dental defendant, so that all dentists who have been injured by Delta’s allegedly anticompetitive conduct will be able to obtain appropriate money damages and benefit from an injunction making Delta change its practices.
Under the court’s revised scheduling order, the court will hold a hearing on the issue of class certification in late 2024 or early 2025.
ADA News will continue to update members when there are developments in the case.