The final legal step in a settlement between Dow Corning Co. and thousands of women with silicone breast implants begins today with a judge opening weeks of hearings on whether to approve a $4.5-billion bankruptcy plan. Both the company and lawyers for the women say the $3.2-billion settlement included within the bankruptcy plan is the best compromise that could be reached.
But they face objections from the federal government, lending institutions and some women, all of whom claim the settlement plan leaves too little for their claims and gives too much protection to the company and its corporate parents. The hearing before U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Arthur Spector is being held in a high school auditorium in Essexville, Mich., 100 miles northwest of Detroit, to accommodate the anticipated throng of lawyers and plaintiffs.
Dow Corning was sued by about 170,000 women. Their proposed settlement is the cornerstone of the company's bankruptcy reorganization plan, which plots how Dow Corning will pay off about 570,000 creditors--including the women, banks that hold Dow Corning's debt and insurance companies as well as doctors and hospitals. Under the proposed settlement, women who blame illnesses on Dow Corning silicone implants could get $12,000 to $300,000 each. Women could also receive up to $25,000 for ruptured or leaking implants and up to $5,000 to pay for implant removal.