AOA settles contact lens antitrust lawsuit
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. More than 6 years of legal battles are drawing to a close following a federal judges decision to give preliminary approval for a settlement between the American Optometric Association (AOA), the attorneys general of 32 states and countless contact lens wearers in a contact lens antitrust case.
The preliminary settlement, made in the Jacksonville U.S. District Court, requires the AOA to pay $750,000 for alleged antitrust activity involving the AOA, Vistakon (Jacksonville, Fla.), CIBA Vision (Duluth, Ga.) and Bausch & Lomb (Rochester, N.Y.). Further, the AOA is prohibited from participating in any activity that could be construed as promoting antitrust activity, such as encouraging or asking any contact lens manufacturer to refuse to sell contact lenses to any channel of trade.
In 1994, 32 states filed a complaint alleging that Vistakon, the AOA, Bausch & Lomb and CIBA Vision had entered into an illegal contract to limit the sale of products to optometric and other medical clinics and offices, thereby excluding non-traditional venues such as mail-order services.
AOA President Howard J. Braverman, OD, said his association made the decision to settle so it could move ahead with its day-to-day activities. The AOA made a business decision to put the lawsuit behind us so we could devote our time and energy to the public we serve every day as an association, he told Primary Care Optometry News. This was an honorable settlement. We did not admit to any wrongdoing; we are not changing anything we do.
A court hearing was scheduled for May 22, at which time the final resolution of the case against Vistakon and the AOA was to be given by Judge Harvey Schlesinger. CIBA Vision settled in 1997, and Bausch & Lomb settled this February. The trial for the case against the AOA and Vistakon commenced here in March.
Now that a settlement has been reached, Dr. Braverman said the AOA is free to concentrate on other projects. With this behind us, the AOA has a new focus, he said. Well be working with the states to help them pass legislation to ensure that all children have a complete eye exam before they enter school. Children cannot learn if they cannot see properly, and any visual problems need to be caught early.
For Your Information:
- Howard J. Braverman, OD, is president of the American Optometric Association. He may be reached at 243 N. Lindbergh Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63141-7881; (314) 991-4100; fax: (314) 991-4101.