Johnson & Johnson Settles Contacts Antitrust Case

Johnson & Johnson Vision Care Inc has agreed to pay $55 million to end an antitrust case in US federal court over the pricing of disposable contact lenses, marking the largest settlement in the private class action and the last defendant to resolve claims.

The settlement amount was shown in a court filing on Wednesday from the plaintiffs’ lawyers leading the case in Tampa, Florida, federal court. They are seeking preliminary approval of the deal, which was first announced last month but without any details about the settlement amount.

J&J Vision reached an agreement on the eve of a trial scheduled in US District Court for the Middle District of Florida. Separately, eye care device company Alcon Vision agreed to pay $20 million to settle antitrust claims in the case also shortly before trial was set to begin on March 28.

A lawyer for J&J Vision, William Cavanaugh Jr of Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler, did not immediately reply to a request for comment on Thursday.

J&J Vision has continued to deny the plaintiffs’ claims of a market pricing conspiracy, and the company has said it believes its conduct was proper.

“We acted appropriately and responsibly in the marketing of our products and this settlement is not an admission of liability or wrongdoing,” J&J Vision said in a statement.

The plaintiffs’ consumer complaints, first filed in 2015, alleged major eye care companies and a distributor agreed to restrain competition for certain disposable contact lenses. Consumer purchasers claimed the defendants “conspired to eliminate discounting of contact lenses by ensuring that all retailers charged the same minimum price.”

Lawyers for the plaintiffs have estimated up to 40 million purchasers of disposable contact lenses were subject to the defendants’ alleged minimum retail pricing scheme.

Plaintiffs’ lawyer Joseph Guglielmo of New York’s Scott+Scott Attorneys did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

In their filing on Wednesday, the plaintiffs’ lawyers said the J&J and Alcon deals were “excellent results” given the complexity of the case and “the significant risks and barriers of a jury trial and appellate review.”

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