Dentsply International (NSDQ:XRAY) can’t escape a putative class action lawsuit accusing it of selling defective Cavitron ultrasonic teeth-cleaning tools, a federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled last week.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for Eastern Pennsylvania, alleges that the dental device company failed to inform its customers that the Cavitron system required an aseptic water source to prevent the growth of biofilm within the device.
"Beginning with the 2006 Cavitron models, Dentsply changed its instructions for the Cavitron, stating that Cavitrons should not be used where asepsis (the state of being free of pathogenic microorganisms) is required. recommended, but did not require, the use of a bleach, sodium hypochlorite, in flushing the system periodically, which could only be accomplished by the purchase and use of additional equipment from Dentsply or another manufacturer," according to court documents. "Dentsply did not, however, change its instructions or warnings to state that Cavitrons should not be connected to a public water system, and did not provide any warnings concerning the dangers of biofilm formation, its accumulation within the Cavitron’s internal and concealed waterlines, and the contamination of dental treatment water from bacterial pathogens in the biofilm."
Dentsply moved to quash the suit in March 2010, arguing that it duplicates a previous lawsuit that was dismissed after Judge Darnell Jones ruled that the defendants lacked standing.
Jones denied the motion to dismiss, ruling that because the plaintiffs in the first lawsuit did not appeal its dismissal, "no potentially duplicative litigation remains pending," according to the documents.
"Defendant’s second argument, relating to the Court’s ‘inherent power to control its own docket,’ also misses the mark. Even the caselaw cited by defendant itself suggests only that such power may be appropriately exercised in the face of a party’s failure to appear or to prosecute, or to reach settlement in a timely manner, and that the court’s ‘inherent power to control’ does not mandate dismissal in the face of such conduct," Jones wrote. "Defendant’s final argument in support of its motion to dismiss rests on the doctrines of equitable estoppel and/or ‘unclean hands.’ However, these doctrines apply only where a plaintiff’s ‘unconscionable conduct’ relates directly to the equity he himself seeks in the action. … [N]o record has been established in this action or in Hildebrand to show any sort of misconduct relating to the Plaintiffs’ use of these dental and periodontal tools."