Shortfall Jeopardizes Breast Implant Settlement

The $4.25 billion agreement that settled thousands of breast implant claims is woefully insufficient, placing it in serious jeopardy, a federal court analysis has found.

Lawyers confirmed Friday that $24 billion might be needed to pay women what they were promised in a first round of payments that had been expected to cost just $1.2 billion.

About 70,000 women have filed claims, far more than was expected when the deal was cut last year.

If the settlement isn’t changed, women could receive as little as 5 percent of what they were promised. Payments of $1.4 million to $105,000 could be reduced to as little as $70,000 to $5,250.

The huge disparity, disclosed Thursday on a national hot line established by the U.S. District Court in Birmingham, shocked lawyers who spent months negotiating the agreement, the largest product liability settlement in U.S. history.

“It’s just an enormous, enormous problem. I don’t know if it can be worked out or not,” women’s lawyer Ralph Knowles said. “There are just too many sick women.”

Since implant makers are unlikely to agree to pay $24 billion, Knowles said negotiators are trying to rework the deal. That could include increasing payments from breast implant makers and decreasing payments to women.

If payments are reduced, implant recipients would be given the option of leaving the settlement and filing individual lawsuits. The federal judge who approved the deal, could also decide to scrap it.

Knowles said a new deal must be reached within a few weeks “or we’re going to call it off.”

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