Thursday, January 11, 2018

Murray Dental Corp. v. Dentsply Int'l (Cal. Ct. App. - Jan. 10, 2018)

The next time someone tells you that class actions are unfair because they're judicial blackmail, too risky for defendants to take to trial, coerce settlement even when the action is meritless, impossible to try, etc. etc., have them read this opinion.  (And, yes, Judges Easterbrook, Friendly, and Posner, I'm talking, inter alia, to you.)

It's a case that was filed in 2004, and has been up and down in the Court of Appeal since then.  It's a class action against a particular (very expensive) dental machine, which the plaintiffs say isn't up to snuff because defendants market it as good for "[p]eriodontal debridement for all types of periodontal diseases" (e.g., oral surgery) but in fact doesn't work for that since it accumulates biofilm and hence can't deliver the required sterile water.

The case goes on forever.  Thirteen years.  Gets certified and everything (though even that requires a trip in the Court of Appeal).  But never settles.  Actually goes to trial; a month-long one, even.

One in which the defendants prevail.  And the Court of Appeal affirms.

A definite bummer for the plaintiff class and -- especially -- their attorneys, to be sure.  All that work (and expense) for literally less than nothing.  Plus a cost award (e.g., insult to injury) in the final lines of the Court of Appeal's opinion.  Ouch.

But proof positive that cases can be tried.  And lost.  Even class actions that might facially seem non-trivially good ones.