Dentists ask court to certify class action in lawsuit against Delta Dental

Allege benefits company violated antitrust laws

A group of dentists is asking a judge to certify their case against Delta Dental as a class action lawsuit, alleging the company suppressed reimbursement rates.

It's the latest in an ongoing battle between dentists and the Delta Dental Plans and the Delta Dental Plans Association. In 2019, the ADA filed a class action lawsuit , alleging that Delta violated the antitrust laws by agreeing to reduce reimbursements to participating dentists through territorial restrictions, fix prices for specific dental goods and services and restrict competition from other competitors.

Numerous individual dentists also filed class action complaints against Delta, and the allegations in the various complaints were later combined into a single consolidated complaint. Judge Elaine Bucklo, of the federal court for the Northern District of Illinois, is presiding over the consolidated pretrial proceedings in the litigation.

In February, the plaintiffs filed a motion asking the court to certify the case as a class action on the grounds that roughly 240,000 dental providers have been substantially harmed by the alleged conspiracy and that evidence common to the proposed class confirms the existence of the conspiracy to suppress reimbursement rates.

The plaintiffs are asking the court to certify a class of all dental providers who provided dental goods or services to a Delta Dental insured and were reimbursed directly by a one of the Delta defendants and who were subject to a Delta Dental participating provider agreement (excluding HMO and public entitlement plans) in the United States from Oct. 11, 2015, to Dec. 31, 2022. The plaintiffs are seeking appropriate money damages to be awarded to class members as well as an injunction making Delta change its practices.

The Delta defendants filed a motion to dismiss the consolidated complaint, but Judge Bucklo issued an opinion denying Delta’s motion in September 2020. The parties then embarked on several years of intensive discovery, exchanging voluminous documentation and taking nearly 200 depositions.

In December 2023, in response to a subpoena requiring the ADA to produce one or more of its employees to appear for a deposition, two members of the ADA’s senior staff provided deposition testimony on behalf of the ADA.

The court’s ruling on whether to certify the case as a class action will be an important milestone in the litigation, according to the ADA’s legal division. Under the court’s current scheduling order, Delta’s response to the plaintiffs’ class certification motion is due on June 18, followed by additional discovery and further briefing to be completed by Dec. 19. At the conclusion of the briefing, the court will set a date for a hearing on the motion for class certification. Following the court’s ruling on the issue of class certification, the court will set a schedule for further pre-trial proceedings.

ADA News will continue to update members when there are developments in the case.

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