ESSEXVILLE, Mich. -- Dow Corning Corp. calls a $3.2 billion proposal to settle silicone breast implant lawsuits the best compromise available. Lawyers for several groups, including foreign women, call it unacceptable.
The opposing views emerged Monday during the opening of a hearing of Dow Corning's $4.5 billion bankruptcy restructuring plan. More than 170,000 women sued the company, saying implants made by Dow Corning or filled with Dow Corning material caused various health problems.Under the implant-settlement plan, Dow Corning will "pay far more than it had ever offered to pay before, and more than it ever thought it needed to pay," company attorney Barbara Houser told the judges.
The proposal calls for women who blame illnesses on Dow Corning silicone breast implants to get between $12,000 and $300,000 each. Women also could receive up to $25,000 for ruptured or leaking implants, and up to $5,000 for implant removal.
But the plan also proposes to pay about 23,000 women in foreign countries 40 percent or 65 percent less, depending on where they live. Dow Corning said that was due to lower medical costs and different economic conditions in other countries.
Lawyers for women in several countries said the reductions made no sense and the plan should be rejected.
"I feel we're the iceberg in front of the Titanic," said David Goroff, who represents 1,800 Australian women. "Miss Houser tells us the plan is big, fast moving and a lot of people have bought tickets."
Other attorneys for foreign women argued the plan violated international treaties and put too many demands on Third World residents to produce medical records.
"We realized we were never going to break the logjam in this case . . . without compromise," said Kenneth Eckstein, a lead attorney for the U.S. women.
Of 112,774 women who earlier this year voted on the plan's terms, 94 percent approved. But women in countries where payments would be reduced 65 percent narrowly failed to approve the settlement plan.
For those who reject the money and still want to sue, Dow Corning would set aside up to $400 million to cover any costs of defending such lawsuits.