Dentists Show Legal Teeth Over Rejected Pandemic Claims

By Martin Croucher
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Law360, London (May 12, 2020, 2:12 PM BST) -- A trade body representing British dental practices said Tuesday it has appointed law firm Brown Rudnick LLP to examine its members' insurance policies after many of their claims for business interruption during the government-ordered lockdown were rejected.

The British Dental Association said its 22,000 members – most of which are family dentists working in the National Health Service – had been "blindsided" by the response of insurers to the crisis.

Legal advice from Brown Rudnick will allow the association to report to the Financial Conduct Authority, which is preparing a High Court case to determine the liability of insurers in a range of cases.

"Many dentists who took out policies to guard against the unexpected have been left with no support during this pandemic," Mick Armstrong, chairman of the BDA, said.

"The FCA has begun its own legal process to weigh up policies covering almost every business sector in Britain," Armstrong added. "However, it is clear this will now take months."

The association said it was not clear whether the regulator's case, which will probably be heard in July, will help

"We're not prepared to be a passive observer and wait on a 'one size fits all' court determination that could leave the practices that millions of patients depend on dangerously exposed," Armstrong added. Legal advice will allow dentists' practices to challenge claims rejected by insurers regardless of the outcome of the FCA's court action, he said.

More than 200 small businesses have joined the Hiscox Action Group, which is considering litigation against insurer Hiscox. They also said on Monday that they will not wait for the watchdog's case to be resolved before they file their legal action. 

The U.K.-wide lockdown has hit dentists, who have been ordered to halt all non-emergency treatment.

The government has said that companies in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors do not need to pay business rates – a form of property tax – for the rest of the year. But that has not been extended to the private dentistry sector.

The BDA said it had polled its members and found 70% said they could remain financially viable only for the next three months.

The association did not immediately respond to a request for comment about how many of its members had seen claims rejected, nor which insurers are responsible.

--Editing by Ed Harris.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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