A federal judge has dismissed the antitrust suit filed by the Maryland Optometric Association (MOA) against Davis Vision and CareFirst. The suit was filed in July in the United States District Court of Baltimore.

However, the MOA may still pursue the issue. But rather than litigate, theyll arbitrate.

In the suit, the MOA alleged that Davis Vision and CareFirst unlawfully restrained competition in the sale of prescription eyeglasses. The MOA contended that the defendants established a two-tier reimbursement system.

Under this system, an independent optometrist would be required to sell patients eyewear from the Davis frame tower and use out-of-state Davis Vision labs. By contrast, members of a preferred classincluding national retail chains such as Wal-Mart, Doctors Vision Works, Hour Eyes and Pearl Visionwould have no restrictions on what eyewear they could offer patients and could use labs of their choice.

Edward A. Garmatz Federal Building and Courthouse, Baltimore, Md.

But on December 21, the suit was dismissed because the claims brought by the Maryland Optometric Association were not sufficient to support jurisdiction in the court, says a statement from Davis Vision.

MOA, for its part, says its 350-member association is pleased to report that the U.S. District Court in Baltimore has ruled that its claims against Davis Vision and CareFirst are subject to binding arbitration, and therefore the appropriate forum to resolve the disputes is before a panel of arbitrators rather than a court of law.

As there has been no ruling on the underlying merits of the action, the MOA says it remains free to present all its claims to the arbitration panel, which will be made up of independent members.

Vol. No: 142:2Issue: 2/15/05