Texas woman says she was blinded after using flea market contact lenses

(KLBK/KAMC)
(KLBK/KAMC)

LUBBOCK, Texas (KLBK/KAMC) — A woman now considered legally blind has filed a lawsuit for more than a million dollars after her lawyer says she lost her eyesight after buying contact lenses at a flea market in Lubbock, Texas.

According to the lawsuit, Liza Garcia purchased the contacts from the One Stop Contact Lenses booth at the National Flea Market of Lubbock in February of 2016.

The actual lenses, Bella brand cosmetic contacts, were not vision corrective contacts but the kind that change the color of your iris.

The lawsuit states that after three days of wearing the contacts, Garcia’s eyes began burning and became swollen. She went to the ER, but even with medical care her eyes continued to deteriorate and she was later diagnosed with a bacterial infection in both her eyes.

Garcia continued to return to the hospital for daily checkups, but the infection had permanently damaged both of her eyes, leaving them with ulcers and scar tissue.

The lawsuit states she is now legally blind.

“She lost her eyesight, she lost her job,” attorney, Rion Sanford, explained. “Obviously she’s not someone who has grown up with this disability, so she is not ready for it. She’s going to have to go through a lot of rehab. She may be helped through a lot of corneal transplants but we’re not sure.”

Garcia now needs help doing daily activities, so she and her three children had to move in with her sister.

While researching the case, Sanford learned Garcia’s case is part of a larger issue.

He said many consumers are unaware that wearing cosmetic contacts can significantly impact the health of your eyes.

The Food and Drug Administration has many warning about cosmetic contacts on their website and says you need a prescription.

The fact that Ms. Garcia could purchase these contacts at a flea market, without a prescription is concerning to Sanford.

“You don’t have any expectation that you’re wearing a Class 2 medical device, you have no idea,” he said. “Especially [contacts] that are non-vision correction, the people that pick up these non-vision correction lenses may never have been to an eye care professional ever, and they bought it as a cosmetic, so they’re treating it like that. They’re not treating it as a medical device, so that raises the risk tremendously.”

Garcia is seeking monetary relief of over one million dollars, stating in the lawsuit that she has experienced substantial pain, suffering and mental anguish as a result of her eye injuries.

The lawsuit states that the individual who sold Garcia the lenses didn’t communicate with her that the contacts were a regulated medical device and didn’t communicate the hygiene necessities and dangers that come with these contacts.

“We do feel it’s important to let people know contact lenses need to be taken seriously. I had never been to an eye doctor before [this case]. I had no idea about the seriousness about some of the complications,” explained Sanford. “In the case we just filed, we are serving a number of defendants, we have some local defendants who served and are responsible for the sale in Lubbock, we have quite a few distributors out of Georgia who are all associated together, and then we have manufacturers across Asia and we have to try to get all those people to Lubbock, Texas to answer the lawsuit in Lubbock.”

With so many people involved, Sanford said it is challenging to track how the contact lenses are made and how they are sold.

The lawsuit lists a number of defendants including Orion Vision Group Inc., Clearlab US Inc., Mi Gwang Contact Lens Co., Precision Optical Products, Clearlab SG PTE, Innova Vision Inc, the National Flea Market of Lubbock, Westland Corporation and the man who sold Garcia the contact lenses.

EverythingLubbock.com reached out to Orion Vision Group Monday and was told that the company had not yet been notified of any lawsuit.

Sanford hopes the case can help raise consumer awareness about the potential dangers of cosmetic contacts.

“You need to make sure you go through the process with an eye care professional, get your prescription, be as safe as you can because you only have one set of eyes,” he said.

He anticipates that Garcia’s case will ultimately be seen by a jury.

“We believe in this one, Ms. Garcia should not be blind, she should not have had those contacts in her hands, period,” Sanford said. “And so the people responsible for that we believe need to be held accountable, but that accountability doesn’t come from me or anyone I work with, but that accountability will come from Lubbock jurors, Lubbock citizens and they will make the decision on who is at fault.”

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