Federal agencies back SmileDirectClub in suit against Alabama dental board

An official from the Justice Department argued in favor of SmileDirectClub during a lawsuit against members of the Alabama Dental Board, according to Bloomberg Law.

Makan Delrahim, assistant attorney general for the DOJ's Antitrust Division, asked the appeals court July 8 not to expand a defense protecting dental boards charged with limiting competition.

The case, filed Sept. 11, 2019, accuses the Alabama board of improperly refusing to let SmileDirectClub operate in the state in an attempt to protect the interests of traditional dental providers. The DOJ and the Federal Trade Commission have backed SmileDirectClub.

The board members appealed after a lower court denied them state-action immunity, a defense that would let the dental board deflect federal antitrust lawsuits.

The Alabama Dental Board members say they're automatically entitled to the defense, said Robert Ashby Pate, an attorney for the board. SmileDirectClub is trying to conduct its own review of Alabama's regulatory procedures, Mr. Pate told the 11th Circuit, adding, "But that's not how it's done. SmileDirect doesn't get to audit the state of Alabama and neither does the government."

SmileDirectClub, which has brought similar cases against boards in other states, says the Alabama board hasn't proved a level of state supervision that would allow immunity.

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