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$9.3M Fee Award in $30.2M Lens Price-Fixing MDL Settlement

June 1, 2021 | Posted in : Contingency Fees / POF, Expenses / Costs, Fee Award, Fee Award Factors, Fee Benchmark / Standard, Fee Jurisprudence, Fee Request, Practice Area: Class Action / Mass Tort / MDL, Settlement Data / Terms

A recent Law 360 story by Dave Simpson, “$30.2M Deal, $9.3M Fee Award Greenlit in Lens Price-Fix MDL,” reports that a Florida federal judge signed off on a $30.2 million settlement to resolve claims against ABB Optical Group in sprawling price-fixing litigation and also granted $9.3 million in attorney fees plus $1 million for future anticipated claims costs.  U.S. District Judge Harvey E. Schlesinger greenlit the fee bid, which equals one-third of the settlement fund after payment of $500,000 for court-approved notice costs, $1 million in anticipated claims administration costs and about $750,000 in expenses.

"The court has considered the applicable case law and finds that awarding the requested attorneys' fees is fair and reasonable and just compensation for the work done and risks taken in this litigation and is well within the range of reasonableness under the factors established by the Eleventh Circuit," the judge said.

ABB Optical Group LLC, a contact lens distributor, was one of several large companies in the optical industry roped into the multidistrict litigation, which was consolidated in Central Florida.  The plaintiffs and the company signaled to the court Aug. 31 that they had reached a deal, although details were not disclosed at the time.  The court gave preliminary approval on Nov. 13, and the plaintiffs and their counsel filed initial motions for final approval of the deal and for the attorneys fee award in late February, according to court records.

The MDL — originally composed of over 100 cases — has been percolating for the last half-decade in the federal court in Jacksonville, where cases from Kansas and California were consolidated with those from the Sunshine State in 2015.  Suits began cropping up after optometrists and ophthalmologists raised concerns about discount lenses, accusing the four companies — vision care manufacturers Bausch & Lomb, Johnson & Johnson and Alcon and distributor ABB — of engaging in a conspiracy to coordinate their pricing.

In a December 2018 order, U.S. District Judge Schlesinger created a "In a December 2018 order, U.S. District Judge Schlesinger created a horizontal class of U.S. residents who made certain retail purchases of disposable lenses made by Alcon, Johnson & Johnson or Bausch & Lomb from June 1, 2013, to Dec. 4, 2018, for their own use and not resale.

The judge also created vertical manufacturer-based subclasses for consumers who bought, from June 1, 2013, to the date of class certification, lenses that one of those three companies made, applying the same conditions regarding prices.  The buyers had said in April that the lack of objections to their fee bid "evidences the reasonableness of lead counsel's fee request."