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Online Vision Testing Service Scores Major Win at South Carolina Court of Appeals

COLUMBIA, S.C.—Today, the South Carolina Court of Appeals reversed a lower court decision dismissing online vision testing company Visibly’s lawsuit against the state. This means that Visibly’s lawsuit can proceed, which could have far-reaching implications for economic freedom in South Carolina.

Visibly’s innovative technology allows patients to take an online vision test and have their results sent to a licensed eye doctor, who can review the results and decide whether to write a prescription for new glasses or contacts. Visibly was busy serving happy customers in South Carolina until 2016, when local optometrists pushed for legislation that banned doctors from using its technology.

Because the ban restricted access to care merely to protect optometrists from economic competition, Visibly, in partnership with the Institute for Justice (IJ), sued. But in 2018, the case hit a snag. A state trial court ruled that Visibly lacked standing to challenge the ban on the theory that losing the ability to operate a “chosen” business is not an injury.

Today’s decision reverses that ruling. As the South Carolina Court of Appeals explained: “[Visibly] has suffered an actual and particularized injury” because the company “is prohibited from engaging in business under the business model it desires.”

“This decision recognizes what should have been obvious from the start: When one market group successfully lobbies to put their competitors out of business, the victim can sue to defend their right to earn an honest living,” said IJ Attorney Joshua Windham.

Now, the case will head back to the trial court for a decision on the merits.

“We are excited to move to the merits of this case, so we can provide affordable, convenient and effective vision tests to the people of South Carolina,” said Visibly CEO Brent Rasmussen.

“We launched this case with a simple message: States have no business depriving patients of convenient access to care simply to protect outdated business models from competition,” said IJ Senior Attorney Robert McNamara. “The pandemic has only underscored that message by highlighting the important role that technologies like Visibly can play in expanding access to care. Now is the time to strike down this unconstitutional law.”

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