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JUDGE DELAYS SETTLEMENT OF IMPLANT CLAIMS

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A judge held up a $4.25 billion settlement of breast implant claims to consider arguments that it may be unfair to foreign women.

U.S. District Judge Sam Pointer ended a three-day hearing on the settlement Monday, saying he needed more time to consider "very serious concerns" raised by women who live outside the United States but received U.S.-made implants.Pointer said he would decide by Sept. 1 whether to grant final approval to what would be the largest single product liability settlement in U.S. history.

"If I did not have to deal with the foreign situation, I would be in the position of saying, `Yes, this is in the best interest of the American litigants,' " Pointer said.

The Canadian government and lawyers representing hundreds of women in Europe and Australia have objected to the agreement.

They contend that too little money would go to foreign women and that not enough was done to notify those women of the agreement.

Nearly 60 makers of silicone breast implants, including Dow Corning Corp., have agreed to pay $4.25 billion to women who blame a variety of illnesses on the devices.

U.S. women would receive from $104,000 to $1.4 million, depending on their health and age.

Foreign women would receive less, splitting $36 million the first year.

After that, they would get 3 percent of the total annual payments over the remaining 29 years of the agreement.

Ralph Knowles, one of five U.S. lawyers who negotiated the settlement for all implant recipients, told the court that the amount of money for foreign women came "somewhat out of the air."

He said the negotiating team entered the talks in agreement that U.S. women should get the most money.

About 90,500 women worldwide have filed papers to join the deal, but only 500 of them are from foreign countries.

Another 15,000 women - 40 percent of them from outside the United States - have rejected the settlement.

Peter Cashman, an Australian attorney speaking on behalf of eight law firms representing about 2,000 women, suggested that Pointer defer his ruling so more negotiations could be held.

Joseph Bruegger, representing about 200 Australian women who sued implant makers in Texas courts, said the settlement is unfair and urged Pointer to throw it out.