Two former patients of Allcare Dental & Dentures filed a class-action lawsuit against the company January 18, claiming Allcare knowingly took money from them and potentially thousands of other patients for services it never intended to deliver.
On December 31, Allcare -- the subject of numerous lawsuits and complaints in recent years -- shut down all of its U.S. offices without warning, citing "financial difficulties." Hundreds of patients have since stepped forward claiming they prepaid for services they never received.
This is the first federal legal action to be taken against the company on behalf of former Allcare patients since it shut down. In a 15-page complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, James Crowl of Mansfield, OH, and Gabriel Williams of Dayton, OH, allege that they and others paid up to thousands of dollars for dental care that they did not receive because the company ceased operation without warning.
Crowl reportedly paid $1,300 for four crowns (the portion of the bill his insurance wouldn't cover), according to a story in the Plain Dealer. But only part of the work had been completed when the Allcare office in Ontario, OH, called him in December to reschedule his next appointment until after the first of the year. In addition to not finishing the work, Allcare has "refused to refund Plaintiff Crowl his money," according to the complaint.
Williams paid $1,200 for new crowns and a bridge that he also never received and that Allcare refuses to refund, according to the complaint.
Crowl and Williams have also filed complaints with the state attorney general and the dental board.
In the class-action suit, Crowl and Williams are seeking “relief, including, among other things, damages and injunctive relief." Court documents note a demand of $5 million in the case, but this is just a jurisdictional requirement needed to achieve class-action certification, according to Nicholas DiCello, the attorney representing Crowl and Williams.
"We don't know how many people are affected by this, so we don't know the total amount yet and are not seeking damages in that amount,” he told DrBicuspid.com. "But we are getting calls from people who have spent hundreds and thousands of dollars for work never received."
His firm, Spangenberg Shibley & Liber in Cleveland, is looking at filing additional lawsuits in other states and has already filed for a national class-action, he added.
Allcare claims on an informational website that its corporate website was shut down earlier this month by its service provider, along with its telephone service. Calls to the corporate headquarters confirmed the number is no longer in service; in addition, as of January 19, the corporate website was still inoperable.
In the meantime, with complaints pouring in, attorneys general in numerous states have launched investigations into Allcare's activities to determine if any laws were broken and if legal action against the company is warranted. Other states are working to ensure that Allcare patients are given access to their dental records and connected with other dental practitioners to ensure the work most of them prepaid for is completed. Several dental practices have also stepped forward to offer assistance.
Allcare was the subject of numerous complaints in recent years, including a lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo against 10 healthcare providers that allegedly used predatory practices to promote CareCredit; a lawsuit filed by a West Virginia woman accusing the company of defective dentures; complaints by former employees who accused Allcare of deceiving its patients to increase profit margins; and a $135,000 consumer settlement with the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office for not honoring advertised discounts, using confusing information about limitations or qualifications for various promotions, and failing to provide consumers with information about financing services.
The company was founded in 2005 by Robert S. Bates, DDS. Dr. Bates is also named as a defendant in the class-action suit.
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