DOW CORNING: Reaches Breast Implant Settlement
Dow Corning Corp. filed a $3.2 billion negotiated reorganization plan Monday to compensate women who claim their health suffered from the company's silicone breast implants, bringing to an "end ... a long and sometimes bitter fight" for the former leading silicone manufacturer. The Detroit News reports that as part of the deal, filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, the Midland, MI-based manufacturer will offer payments to 176,000 women, make payments to its commercial creditors and "settle various types of claims with doctors, hospitals and health insurers" (Preddy, 11/10). Following court and creditors' approval, the deal will allow Dow Corning to escape Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The Los Angeles Times reports that plaintiffs stand to recover $250,000 each, with the settlement offering women with several payment options. Those women claiming their implant contributed to illness could receive up to $250,000 and an additional $20,000 for a ruptured implant. Women could receive $5,000 for implant removal surgery, and those without a reported illness but aiming "to settle and waive future disease claims would receive $2,000." Furthermore, Dow Corning agreed to establish a fund, capped at $400 million, to compensate "customers who pursue litigation" in the future. Plaintiffs could see checks next summer, as "one of the largest public health settlements in history, behind only the massive tobacco settlements," draws to a close (Leeds, 11/10).
"Money For Everyone"
The Wall Street Journal reports that Dow's reorganization plan "conclude[s] nearly a decade of legal wrangling and thousands of lawsuits" that forced the company into U.S. Bankruptcy Court in May 1995. Dow Corning President Gary Anderson called the deal a "landmark" settlement, saying, "Both sides have compromised so that women can finally resolve their claims." Plaintiffs' negotiator Ralph Knowles Jr. agreed, saying, "We feel that there's enough money to pay everybody." He hailed the settlement as a victory for the women, "because their claims have been stayed for three years" (11/10). Francis McGovern, a Duke University law professor mediating the bankruptcy case, noted that "[t]here are agreements to be worked out" between the negotiating parties. However, he said, "This fall, before the disclosure statement hearing in January, I'm confident that all parties will come in and work together" (Morrow, New York Times, 11/10).