The U.S. Federal Court for the Northern District of Alabama dismissed six of the eleven counts SmileDirectClub filed against the Board of Dental Examiners of Alabama. The lawsuit stems from a cease-and-desist letter sent to Dr D. Blaine Leeds and SmileDirectClub by the Board after SmileDirectClub opened its first Alabama location in August 2018.
The Board’s letter alleged that SmileDirectClub and Leeds were violating sections 34-9-5 and 34-9-20 of the Alabama Code by having intraoral scans performed by unlicensed individuals not under the direct, or on-premises, supervision of a licensed dentist.
The SmileDirectClub and Leeds complaint said that the Board and its members committed antitrust violations by attempting to take action against them. Their claim also stated that the actions of the Board and its members: (a) violate their constitutional due process and equal protection rights; (b) violate the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution; and (c) exceed the scope of the Board’s regulatory authority under the Alabama statutes.
On April 17, 2019, in response to the Board’s motion to dismiss, the Court threw out six of SmileDirectClub’s counts against the Board. The Court however did deny two of the Board’s motions to dismiss.
In January, the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) filed a motion seeking permission to file an Amicus Curiae Brief in support of the Alabama Board’s Motion to Dismiss SmileDirectClub’s lawsuit; supporting the position of the Board and its members in the lawsuit; and in opposition to the claims and arguments made by SmileDirectClub and Leeds. The AAO argued that it had a significant interest in the outcome of the case as it involves the health, safety, and well-being of patients seeking orthodontic care. The Court granted the AAO’s motion and allowed it to file its brief, which referenced alleged “Customer Complaints” regarding SmileDirectClub on the Better Business Bureau’s website.
In the Court’s Memorandum Opinion dismissing the six counts, the Court stated that the AAO’s involvement as an amicus party, in the interests of the health, safety, and well-being of patients seeking orthodontic care, did not go unnoticed by the Court.
The memorandum specifically stated, “Defendants and their amicus [the American Association of Orthodontists] have identified several legitimate goals for requiring the physical presence of a licensed dentist at facilities where [a digital intra-oral scanner] is used. Using [a digital intra-oral scanner] to make digital images of teeth is an intraoral procedure that involves inserting the device into patients’ mouths.”