Breast Implant Deal Is Argued
Jun. 28, 1999
ESSEXVILLE, Mich. (AP) _ A $3.2 billion settlement between Dow Corning Corp. and women with silicone breast implants is facing opposition from lawyers representing foreign women, who would receive less money than U.S. women.
Both company attorneys and those representing U.S. women argued in favor of the proposal as settlement hearings opened Monday.
Under the plan, Dow Corning will ``pay far more than it had ever offered to pay before, and more than it ever thought it needed to pay,'' company attorney Barbara Houser told U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Arthur Spector.
``We realized we were never going to break the logjam in this case ... without compromise,'' said Kenneth Eckstein, lead attorney for the U.S. women.
The hearing also covers $1.3 billion to settle other claims against the company in its federal bankruptcy case. It could last a month or longer.
But the plan faces objections from the federal government, financial institutions and some women. The opponents claim the plan gives them too little and protects Dow Corning and its corporate parents too much.
Women outside the United States would be paid 40 percent to 65 percent less for their claims, depending on where they live. Dow Corning said that was due to lower medical costs and different economic conditions in other countries.
``I feel we're the iceberg in front of the Titanic,'' said David Goroff, who represents 1,800 Australian women. ``Miss Houser tells us the plan is big, fast moving and a lot of people have bought tickets.''
In all, 170,000 women have sued the company. Of 112,774 who voted on the terms earlier this year, 94 percent approved.
The settlement is the cornerstone of a $4.5 billion bankruptcy reorganization plan, which plots how Dow Corning will pay off about 570,000 creditors, including the 170,000 women who sued. Among the other creditors are banks that hold Dow Corning's debt, insurance companies, doctors and hospitals.
The Midland-based company filed for bankruptcy in 1995 after 19,000 women sued, claiming silicone breast implants caused a variety of diseases. Under the proposed settlement, women who blame illnesses on Dow Corning silicone breast implants could get between $12,000 and $300,000 each. Women could also receive up to $25,000 for ruptured or leaking implants, and up to $5,000 for implant removal.
For those who reject the money and still want to sue, Dow Corning would set aside up to $400 million to cover any costs of defending such lawsuits.
Financial institutions that hold $1.3 billion in Dow Corning debt voted against their part of the plan even though it pays them in full, saying the interest rate set by the company was wrong.
The U.S. Department of Justice has objected, saying the plan is insufficient to pay for the health care the government has provided for people with silicone implants.