On Tuesday, Judge Adalberto Jordan delivered the unanimous opinion of the court concerning an appeal form the Northern District of Georgia between plaintiff SmileDirectClub, LLC (SmileDirect) and defendant Tanja D. Battle, the executive director of the Georgia Board of Dentistry.
The opinion explained that SmileDirect offers “orthodontic treatments, including teeth alignment, at steep discounts.” They take digital scans of a patient’s teeth and ship them out to a licensed dentist who reviews the scans and creates a patient-specific plan.
The controversy began, the opinion said, when Georgia Board of Dentistry passed a new rule in 2018 that required a licensed dentist to be physically in the building where the scans are taking place. SmileDirect then sued the Board members, claiming that the new rule was a violation of the Sherman Act.
The board members argued for dismissal on the basis that they possessed state action immunity since they acted on behalf of the state of Georgia when passing the rule. They filed an interlocutory appeal following the district court’s denial of their dismissal. The panel affirmed the denial of the motion to dismiss but the court granted en banc review to determine whether denials of state action immunity can be appealed prior to a final decision.
In a unanimous decision, the full Eleventh Circuit ruled that an appeal made before a final decision is issued in the case of state action immunity violates the collateral order doctrine, which states that a case must have a decision before it can be appealed.
This led the court to dismiss the appeal by the Georgia Board of Dentistry for lack of jurisdiction.The plaintiffs were represented in this case by King & Spalding.