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Major Hurdle to Implant Settlement Cleared

Nevada women agree to drop their appeal in suit against silicone maker Dow Corning. Checks may go out by year-end.

March 20, 2004|From Associated Press

A major obstacle to Dow Corning Corp.'s plan to settle with women who claim silicone breast implants made them sick appeared resolved Friday after a decision by a group of Nevada women to drop their appeal.

A lawyer involved in the settlement said the first checks probably would go out by the end of the year. A federal judge must first approve the schedule.

Dow Corning, a joint venture of Midland, Mich.-based Dow Chemical Co. and Corning, N.Y.-based Corning Inc., was forced into bankruptcy in 1995 after thousands of women filed claims that implants made by the company damaged their health.

As part of the company's reorganization plan, it set aside a fund currently worth $2.35 billion to pay implant claimants.

Most plaintiffs agreed to the settlement, which stipulated that Dow Chemical cannot be sued, but a group of 48 Nevada women appealed. Their lawyers cited a Nevada court ruling upholding damages against Dow Chemical in a breast implant case as a justification to reject the settlement plan.

"I continue to believe Dow Chemical was responsible for the pain and suffering of untold numbers of women," said Geoff White, a lawyer for the Nevada women. "It simply became clear that the process would take too long for very sick women in Nevada and elsewhere to recover for their injuries."

Dow Corning spokeswoman Mary Lou Benecke said the company was pleased with the Nevada women's decision Thursday to drop the appeal.

"This dismissal ... is something that will move the case forward," Benecke said.

Benecke said there were still some issues pending with creditors before the plan could be implemented. Atlanta attorney Ralph Knowles, a member of the claimants committee that represented people who sued the manufacturer, said those issues were mostly technical matters.

The settlement affects hundreds of thousands of claimants with all types of silicone implants -- not just breast implants.

Under the plan, individuals can receive $2,000 to $330,000 if they agree to the settlement, though Knowles said $200,000 is a more reasonable expectation for people with serious diseases. About $400 million from the fund is set aside for litigation, Knowles said.

Knowles said many claimants had been frustrated with the delays caused by the Nevada appeal.

"I think Geoff White and his clients certainly had the right to raise the issue," Knowles said. "I'm appreciative of what they've done.... We literally have claimants dying and desperately in need of money."

Dow Chemical's shares fell 13 cents to $39.15 on the New York Stock Exchange. Corning's shares dropped 31 cents to $10.57, also on the NYSE.

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