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Judge Approves $68 Million Settlement in Suit Against Bausch & Lomb

August 1, 1996

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) _ A court-approved settlement announced Thursday would provide as much as $68 million in cash and products to contact lens wearers who claimed Bausch & Lomb cheated them.

As many as 1.5 million buyers of the company’s disposable lenses could receive payments ranging from a few dollars to as much as $100 each under the agreement, a plaintiff’s lawyer said.

A class-action case filed in 1994 claimed the company sold the same product under four different brand names at widely varying prices, defrauding some customers who paid more in the belief they were getting different lenses.

While admitting no wrongdoing, Bausch & Lomb agreed to make as much $34 million in cash payments to consumers, said spokeswoman Holly Echols. The company will provide the same amount in free products including contact lenses, sunglasses and skin-care items.

The company’s actual cost could be less.

``Experience in other class actions has shown that not everyone who is eligible to file a claim will file a claim, and not all of the claims that are submitted will be valid,″ Ms. Echols said from headquarters in Rochester, N.Y.

The average lens wearer would receive from $50 to $100 in cash and coupons depending on how many lenses they bought, said plaintiff’s attorney Fredric L. Ellis of Boston.

``I think this settlement reflects a vindication of the right of consumers to know what they are getting when they buy a product,″ said Ellis.

U.S. District Judge U.W. Clemon granted preliminary approval Wednesday and scheduled a Nov. 26 hearing to determine the fairness of the pact.

Bausch & Lomb agreed to pay as much as $8 million in attorneys fees in addition to the payments to consumers, Ellis said.

A statement by Bausch & Lomb said the company agreed to the deal ``in order to focus on moving the company forward″ rather than having to deal with protracted litigation.

The company said it would record a charge against third-quarter earnings totaling $10 million after taxes, or 18 cents per share, and also has a reserve for litigation expenses.

Ellis said Bausch & Lomb wrongly sold its SeeQuence 2 lens under different brand names, including Medalist, Optima FW and Criterion Ultra FW. Retail prices ranged from $4 per lens to $25 a lens and were based on how often the lenses were supposed to be replaced, he said.

Under the settlement, anyone who bought a Medalist, Optima or Criterion lens from 1990 through April would be eligible for refunds ranging from $2.68 in cash and coupons per lens to $10.66 per lens.

Ms. Echols said the company could not estimate how much individuals might receive because consumers purchased the lenses with varying frequency.

Bausch & Lomb has since discontinued the Criterion brand and is selling the SeeQuence 2 and Medalist brands with the Opitma FW name added to the label.

Advertisements will begin appearing in newspapers nationwide on Friday announcing the settlement. The deadline for claims is Feb. 1, 1997.

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Claims forms can be obtained by calling 1-800-392-0581 or writing to P.O. Box 371248, Birmingham, Ala., 35237-1248.