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DEBRY SUING FOR HEALTHY IMPLANT PATIENTS

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A Utah lawyer has renewed his efforts to launch a national lawsuit on behalf of women with silicone breast implants who have not developed medical problems.

A global $4.2 billion settlement already is under way with implant manufacturers in an Alabama federal court. That agreement includes potential payments of more than $1 million apiece for women who are seriously ill.But Robert J. DeBry contends healthy women should have a separate class-action lawsuit filed at the state court level.

First, he argues that since their damage claims are for less than $50,000, they don't fall under the legal jurisdiction of federal court. Second, the women may get better settlements from a separate lawsuit than the global settlement, which focuses on ill women.

His lawsuit against McGhan Medical Corp. and former parent company 3M of California was filed in 3rd District Court on July 18.

Judge John Rokich rejected a nearly identical case in 1992, refusing to certify DeBry's proposed national class-action lawsuit against implant manufacturer Dow Corning Corp.

On July 20, DeBry requested that the judge reconsider the decision. That case is proceeding with four women as plaintiffs.

Ohio attorney Diana McBride, one of the lead lawyers in the federal case, criticized DeBry's actions.

She said that a woman who accepted a nominal payment under DeBry's case could fall ill two years later, but would be blocked from jumping into the federal case to claim higher benefits.

Women can file medical claims in the federal case during the next 30 years.

"It's awfully short-sighted to just look at your injuries right now," she said. "I disagree 100 percent with what DeBry in Salt Lake is trying to do."

McBride also said the federal settlement is intended to include currently healthy women. Women can claim damages to have implants removed, for continued medical monitoring, and for general compensation, she said.

Finally, women may be legally blocked from joining a new lawsuit unless they have formally opted out of the federal case, McBride said.

About $520 million has been set aside for healthy women seeking evaluations, implant removal or emotional damages. About $2.7 billion will be available to compensate ill women.

Lawsuits claim the implants are linked to a variety of illnesses, including lupus, arthritis or autoimmune disorders.