Class Action Dilemmas: Pursuing Public Goals for Private Gain

By Deborah R. Hensler; Nicholas M. Pace et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter Five CONTACT LENS PRICING LITIGATION: 1
ROBERTS v. BAUSCH & LOMB, INC. 2

PROLOGUE

In early 1993, Business Week reporter Mark Maremont was in Rochester, New York, to research a story on Kodak. 3 As an afterthought -- to make the trip to western New York more worthwhile -- he stopped by Bausch & Lomb, Incorporated, to see if he might learn about any recent developments. Bausch & Lomb is a Rochester-based manufacturer of optical, eye care, and other products, with $2 billion in global annual revenues. 4 During his visit, Maremont was taken on a tour of the company's soft contact lens manufacturing plant and noticed something curious at the end of the assembly line:

A white-clad worker carefully inserts each tiny lens into a plastic blister pack filled with saline solution. Then, some lenses are sealed with a blue film and loaded into boxes marked SeeQuence 2. Another set gets covered with purple film and is stuffed into boxes marked Medalist. Soon, patients around the U.S. will be paying $7 to $9 per pair for the SeeQuence contacts and $15 to $25 for a pair of Medalists.

What's the difference? None. Zilch. Zero. The two products contain precisely the same lens. 5

Maremont wondered if he really understood what he was seeing and asked if the same lenses were actually going into two different boxes. The guide and other Bausch & Lomb representatives told him matter-of-factly that the lenses were indeed identical but that differences in the way the lenses were used justified the variation in packaging and prices. Maremont filed the information away for a future story.

Maremont's observations at the Rochester plant would not have been a surprise to Ventura, California, optometrist Dr. Robert Pazen. In late 1991, Pazen had wondered why his Bausch & Lomb sales representative had delivered only a single set of trial lenses to be used with the company's two new lines of soft contact lenses, the "SeeQuence2" and the "Medalist." 6 In response to Pazen's

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