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Federal judge orders breast implant case to continue

May 22, 1997

DETROIT (AP) _ The nation’s first class-action trial over breast implants should continue in Louisiana rather than be transferred to Michigan, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

The lead plaintiffs in the case requested the trial be allowed to proceed despite the judge’s order last week that all implant claims pending against Dow Chemical Co. or Corning Inc. be transferred to her Detroit court.

U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood granted the request because the first two phases of the trial, which began in March, should be completed sometime this fall.

But if the jury finds Dow Chemical liable, about 1,800 women Louisiana women would have to argue for damages in Ms. Hood’s court.

The suit alleges that implants made by Dow Corning Corp. caused health problems. Dow Corning is co-owned by Dow Chemical and Corning.

The eight lead plaintiffs are trying to convince the jury that Dow Chemical is liable because of its research and testing of silicone. If the jury agrees, it would then decide on damages.

But Judge Hood said no timetable had been set for next two phases _ notifying about 1,800 women of the decision, then having each argue their claims _ so they must be held in her court.

Dawn Barrios, a plaintiffs’ attorney, said she was thrilled with the decision. She said any damage hearings should be held wherever is quickest.

``These women have been hanging since 1992,″ Ms. Barrios said. ``If we can get it done quickly and fairly in Michigan, that’s fine.″

Ms. Barrios said the plaintiffs would try to hold just two trials for the 1,800 women, dividing them according to what kind of medical problems they suffered.

Dow Chemical spokesman John Musser said the Midland, Mich.-based company was pleased with Ms. Hood’s decision, but attorneys have not yet determined the company’s next move.

Most breast implant lawsuits were frozen in May 1995, when Dow Corning filed for bankruptcy-court protection from creditors. But the New Orleans case went forward because the women sued Dow Chemical, even though the company never made implants.

Dow Corning, once the leading maker of silicone implants, stopped making them in 1992.

Thousands of women say their implants leaked and caused illnesses, including arthritis, lupus and scleroderma.

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