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Court approves $80 million settlement in class action lawsuit

January 10, 2019

By Jennifer Garvin

Brooklyn, N.Y. — A federal court has approved the $80 million settlement agreement in a class action lawsuit against dental product companies accused of violating antitrust laws by fixing prices on dental equipment and supplies.

According to the Jan. 8 court documents signed by Judge Brian M. Cogan of the Eastern District Court of New York, the following "settlement class" comprises “All persons or entities that purchased [d]ental [p]roducts directly from Schein, Patterson, Benco, Burkhart, or any combination thereof, during the period beginning August 31, 2008 through and including March 31, 2016 (the 'Class Period’)." Although Burkhart Dental Supply was not ultimately a defendant in the class action, customers who purchased its products during the relevant time are included as class members and are entitled to participate in the recovery.

Dental products and equipment covered in the suit include such items as gloves, hand instruments, face masks, toothbrushes, anesthetic solutions, imaging devices, dental chairs, CAD/CAM systems, and the like.

The Eastern District court also released the following schedule for the settlement administration:

Commencement of direct notice and publication notice to the class  Feb. 22 
Submission of motion for attorneys' fees, expenses, and service awards for the class representatives  March 24 
Deadline for class members to opt out of the class or object to the settlement  April 18 
Plaintiffs' notice to court identifying persons or entities requesting exclusion from the class and completion of the notice program May 3 
Submission of motion and memorandum in support of final approval of the settlement and any responses by the parties to any objections filed by class members  May 3 
Fairness hearing  10 a.m. EST on May 22 
Claims hearing  Sept. 19 

According to the lawsuit, which was originally filed in March 2016, the dental product supply companies are alleged to have conspired to suppress price competition so that “they each could charge artificially inflated prices for dental supplies and equipment.”

In September 2018, the ADA News reported that the dental supply companies had reached an agreement and included comment from Henry Schein Inc., saying the company agreed to the settlement in part to “avoid long, distracting litigation” and denied any wrongdoing in a statement.

Once the class action settlement is final, customers whose names and addresses are included in the defendants' databases will be notified of the next steps. The class attorneys will contact organizations such as the ADA to obtain additional information, and the law firms will also set up a website to explain the terms of the settlement and the process for making a claim. The website will also serve as a way for dentists who believe that they are entitled to participate in the suit but have not been contacted to inform the law firm that they should be added to the class.

The ADA Legal Division has heard from ADA members that third parties unaffiliated with the lawsuit have offered to collect settlement money on their behalf for a 20 percent cut of the recovery. The ADA believes these types of services offer no real value as the distribution of settlement money is well-established and virtually automatic. While each member should make his or her own decision, we believe that utilizing such a service will not result in expedited or increased recovery.

The ADA News will continue to provide updates to this story as they become available and members should bear in mind that the current schedule provided by the court above may be modified if needed.