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Align federal court hearing set for Dec. 17

A court hearing requesting preliminary approval of a settlement in a class action lawsuit between dentists and Align Technology Inc. has been scheduled for Dec. 17.

The lawsuit was filed May 10 in federal court in northern California by dentists who allege that, after taking the training course, the company instituted a case quota, reportedly decertified doctors who didn’t comply with the company’s new rules and failed to reimburse dentists for thousands of dollars in training fees. Jason Hartley, attorney with Stueve Siegel Hanson LLP, the Kansas City law firm representing the class, estimated this fall that more than 22,000 dentists are included in the class.

The settlement could mean class members can obtain reinstatement to prescribe Invisalign following completion of a free three-hour online course, and certain class members could have the option to elect a cash remedy instead, according to a news release posted on Align’s website Dec. 6. The amount of money dentists stand to receive has not been announced. The proposed settlement remains subject to approval by a judge.

If the court grants preliminary approval of the settlement at the hearing, all class members will be notified via postal mail within about two weeks of the decision, according to an Align statement released Dec. 6.

The lawsuit claims Align Technology Inc., which manufactures and sells Invisalign, violated California public policy by requiring doctors to prescribe at least 10 cases each year in order to make money. The lawsuit alleges Align was not concerned about patient welfare but about its own bottom line. It describes Align’s practices as unfair and fraudulent.

The class action complaint asked Align to refund dentists the fee they paid to be certified to prescribe Invisalign and said as a result of the practices, the class suffered injury in fact and lost money or property. Align required doctors to pay about $2,000 for a training course to be certified to prescribe Invisalign. In June 2009, Align said doctors would have to start at least 10 cases each year to retain their certification, an action met with protest from numerous groups. The ADA communicated with Align several times, and in April, Align announced it was dropping the requirement.

Dentists who have questions can contact the the attorney for the plaintiff toll free at 1-888-816-1761 or visit www.stuevesiegel.com/CM/CurrentCases/Invisalign.asp.

Watch the ADA News for updates on the Align case.