Antitrust Lawsuit Moves Forward

November 06, 2016

A group of dentists is suing the largest dental distributors for working together to fix supply and equipment prices.

The class-action lawsuit, which began earlier this year, continues to move forward in federal court. The suit originally named only named Henry Schein, Patterson, and Benco. Their motion to dismiss the case was rejected, and Burkhart was named as an alleged fourth co-conspirator.

The suit’s argument is as follows: Henry Schein, Patterson, Benco, and Burkhart all buy supplies from manufacturers and charge artificially high prices to their customers. Because they collectively control between 80% and 90% of the market, they can, and have, forced manufacturers not to sell to distributors that take lower margins. Such activity, if true, violates federal antitrust laws, which prohibit that type of restriction of trade. The end result is that dentists pay more for the same supplies.

The distributors reject these claims, and maintain that their prices are fair and reflect the quality of service they provide to their customers.

If the distributors lose the case, they could be responsible for paying hundreds of millions or more to dentists across the country. Under federal law, the plaintiffs are entitled to 3 times the markup in prices they paid because of the price-fixing.

The case now moves into its fact-finding stage. No trial date has been set yet.

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