Passing on a $130.6 million verdict in their favor, a group of Twin Cities dentists has decided instead to take the keys to their clinics.

Days after winning the judgment against a Massachusetts health care company, American Dental Partners, 115 dentists agreed to a settlement that gives them 25 of the 31 Park Dental and Dental Specialist clinics. In doing so, they avoided the prospect of years of appeals by American Dental Partners.

In the court case, the dentists put the value of the clinics at $115 million. The real estate, equipment and supplies are owned or leased by American Dental Partners. Now the leases and deeds will be transferred to the dentists.

The suit said American Dental Partners, which the dentists brought in to handle the administrative side of the business in 1996, overstepped its bounds with a number of moves, starting in 2004.

The dentists charged the company with sweeping the financial accounts and denying the dentists access to their own money, the suit said. It also said the Massachusetts company began to interfere with the delivery of dental care by interfering in scheduling and demanding that it handle all patient complaints.

"We believe it is in the best interests of the company, our other affiliated dental groups, our shareholders, our employees and the patients of the Park Dental facilities to settle these matters expeditiously," American Dental CEO Gregory Serrao said in a statement.

Industry analysts viewed the monthlong trial as a bellwether case at a time when thousands of clinics have ended up being managed by third-party vendors.

"All we ever wanted to do is provide top-quality care to our patients in the way that the doctors -- not non-doctor administrators -- think is appropriate," said Dr. John Gulon, who led the dentists in the legal fight. "Under the settlement, that is what we will be able to do." Attorney Joseph Anthony, who represented the dentists, said appeals might have left the dentists vulnerable to being locked out of their own clinics.

"One of the issues in the case, the important one from the doctor's perspective, was patient care," he said. "By settling it, they preserve the rights of the patients to receive uninterrupted care."

Mike Meyers • 612-673-1746