ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Aspen Dental Management and the private equity firm that controls it illegally operate dental clinics across the country and engage in aggressive, misleading profit-driven practices that cause patients economic harm, claims a federal lawsuit filed Thursday in New York.
East Syracuse-based Aspen and Leonard Green and Partners are violating laws that require clinics to be owned by dentists actively performing procedures onsite to prevent business interests from trumping those of patients, according to court papers filed at U.S. District Court in Albany.
In the Quad Cities, Aspen Dental has facilities in SouthPark Mall in Moline and at 5270 Elmore Ave., Davenport.
The suit is on behalf of 11 people in 11 states, but their lawyers are seeking class action status that could cover tens of thousands of current and former patients and untold monetary damages.
They argue that the structure of Aspen Dental puts a premium on getting patients to consent to expensive treatment plans through aggressive sales pitches after they've been attracted to the clinics by free exam and X-ray promotions.
Lawyers Brian Cohen and Jeffrey Norton said the goal is to maximize profits for the non-dentist owners of Aspen by using dentists as "sham" owners of clinics, some of which operate too far away, including in other states, for the dentists to practice there. That, they say, violates New York's law against "unlawful corporate practice of medicine."
Aspen's "so-called 'Practice Owners' are nothing more than de facto employees and/or independent contractors" of the company, which controls its 358 clinics' marketing, credit offers, hiring, training and bookkeeping, according to the court papers.
Kasey Pickett, Aspen's director of communication, said the company hadn't yet seen the lawsuit and she couldn't comment on details.
But she said Aspen doesn't employ dentists or control clinical care, instead providing management support.
A message left with Leonard Green and Partners, a $15 billion private equity firm based in Los Angeles, wasn't initially returned. The court papers say the firm took a controlling interest in Aspen for $547 million in 2010.
There are Aspen clinics in 22 states: Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.
Today is Saturday, May 25, the 145th day of 2013. There are 220 days left in the year. 1863 -- 150 years ago: The annual review of the fire department of this city took placeyesterday and made a fine showing with machines and hose carts in tip-top order. 1888 -- 125 years ago: Last night's prayer meeting at Central Presbyterian Church wascalled off due to water in the basement, residue of last week's flood. 1913 -- 100 years ago: The junior class of Rock Island High School will hold a riverexcursion on the steamer St. Paul next Tuesday. 1938 -- 75 years ago: The 75th Anniversary of the Rock Island Arsenal today finds thenation's largest ordinance manufacturing plant filling many important orders for the army. 1963 -- 50 years ago: Miss Patrice Daly, Rock Island, a senior at Rock Island HighSchool, won second place in the recent state public speaking contest held in Peoria underthe auspices of the Knights of Pythias. 1988 -- 25 years ago: Hampton's sesquicentennial committee and the Hampton HistoricalSociety have scheduled a full slate of activities, which will be held throughout the year, to celebrate the village's 150th birthday. The first celebration will be the Memorial Dayprogram at 10 a.m. May 30, at the Brettun and Black Store Museum on River Road. Therewill be a sesquicentennial display.