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To settle a price-fixing lawsuit, the two leading manufacturers of the medical lasers used in eye surgery have agreed to pay $50 million to a class of ophthalmologists and clinics who said the companies illegally agreed that they would charge a $250 per-procedure fee as a royalty for using their machines. Under the terms of the settlement, Santa Clara, Calif.-based VISX Inc. will pay $30 million and Waltham, Mass.-based Summit Technology Inc. (now known as Summit Autonomous Inc.) will pay $20 million. Attorney Michael J. Boni of Kohn Swift & Graf in Philadelphia said the law required the doctors and clinics to act as the plaintiffs since they were the direct purchasers and had paid the fees. But Boni said consumers have benefited from the antitrust allegations because both companies have reduced the fee to $100 per procedure. Boni and his partner, Robert LaRocca, served as co-lead counsel on the case with attorneys Ira Neil Richards and Louis C. Ricciardi of Rodriguez & Richards in Philadelphia; Joseph J. Tabacco Jr. and Susan Kupfer of Berman Devalerio Pease Tabacco Burt & Pucillo in San Francisco; and John I. Alioto and Margaret Mullin Weems Alioto & Alioto in San Francisco. If the settlement is approved by U.S. District Judge Paul Rosenblatt of the District of Arizona, the plaintiffs’ lawyers will be entitled under the settlement to seek an award of up to 25 percent of the settlement fund, or $12.5 million, in attorneys’ fees. Judge Rosenblatt was assigned to handle the case by the Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation after a series of similar suits were filed in courts around the country. The suits alleged that in 1992, VISX and Summit Technology pooled their patents in an entity called Pillar Point Partners, and agreed to charge doctors $250 per eye for each procedure performed on either company’s equipment. The lasers are used to perform the vision correction procedures known as LASIK and PRK. In 1998, the Federal Trade Commission brought civil antitrust proceedings against both companies alleging antitrust violations, resulting in the dissolution of Pillar Point Partners. The class action suit alleged that the conspiracy continued through February 2000 when both companies reduced their per-procedure fees to $100. VISX and Summit (now part of Alcon Laboratories Inc.) have denied any wrongdoing. “This an outstanding result for the members of the class,” Boni said Thursday. “We hope that the court will approve it expeditiously so that the awards to class members can be made.” Summit was represented by attorney Mark R. Merley of Arnold & Porter in Washington, D.C. VISX was represented by attorneys Robert P. Feldman and Keith E. Eggleton of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati in Palo Alto, Calif.

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