Nashville-based oral care company and creator of the first direct-to-consumer med-tech platform SmileDirectClub is suing NBCUniversal for $2.8 billion in damages for what it alleges was a defamatory NBC News report about its oral care methods, including the safety and effectiveness of its teeth aligners.
The lawsuit, filed in Tennessee court today, was first reported by The Wall Street Journal and revolves around a story by NBC News investigative reporter Vicky Nguyen which aired during the Feb. 13 edition of NBC Nightly News.
While SmileDirectClub “promises to fix a smile for about a third of the cost of traditional braces with at-home teeth straightening,” Nguyen said she found through her investigative reporting a number of patients who said the product instead caused painful problems. According to Nguyen, the company says this issue is likely the fault of the patients not following the recommendations.
SmileDirectClub is claiming in its lawsuit that Nguyen’s report “contained more than 40 false and misleading statements about the company and the treatment patients receive from the hundreds of board-certified doctors who use the company’s platform to treat patients.” The company also states that its reputation “was wrongly sullied and its business unjustly harmed” as a result of the Nightly News story.
According to the 205-page lawsuit, prior to NBC News airing its report, SmileDirectClub made available to NBC News “hundreds of pages of documents demonstrating the safety and effectiveness, and benefits, of the treatment patients receive using the company’s telehealth platform.”
The company says it made senior executives available to NBC News to answer questions, “and arranged interviews with doctors who treat patients using SDC’s platform, as well as with many of the more than 750,000 patients whose lives have been changed for the better as a result of the treatment they received.”
An NBC News spokesperson told TVNewser: “We stand by our reporting and believe this is a meritless claim.”
SmileDirectClub and NBCUniversal’s news division were once friends. Ironically, SDC was MSNBC’s biggest advertiser for Q1 2018, spending $640,000. This is according to data from Alphonso, a research firm that tracks TV audience to help brands better target their customers. SmileDirectClub was Fox News’ No. 7 ad spender during that quarter.
I have a feeling SmileDirectClub will not be buying on NBC News or MSNBC going forward.