In one of the largest awards in a case involving silicone breast implants, a Nevada jury on Monday ordered Dow Chemical Co. to pay $10 million in punitive damages to a woman who said she was severely injured by the devices.
Added to the compensatory damages already meted in the case, the decision brings the total amount that Dow Chemical must pay to $14.1 million. The case was also the first in which the chemical company had been found solely liable for injuries caused by breast implants manufactured by Dow Corning, which is owned by Dow Chemical and Corning Inc.
Previously, all breast implant litigation had been directed against makers of the devices like Dow Corning, which was the nation’s leading producer of breast implants and a major supplier of silicone to other manufacturers.
On Saturday, after awarding $4.1 million in compensatory damages to Charlotte Mahlum, 46, and her husband, a state jury in Reno, Nev., also determined that Dow Chemical had shown a conscious disregard for the safety of breast implant recipients. That set the stage for Monday’s award of punitive damages, which are intended to punish a company for its actions and serve as a future deterrent.
A spokesman for Dow Chemical, John Musser, said the company would appeal the jury’s awards. But the award is expected to spur a wave of litigation about breast implants against the world’s sixth largest chemical company, which until now had been largely insulated from the fray.
“Our reaction is that we are disappointed that the jury was moved by the distortion, misrepresentation and inflammatory remarks made by plaintiffs’ bar throughout this case,” Musser said.
A lawyer for the plaintiffs, Ernie Hornsby, said that the $14.1 million award was one of the largest ever in a breast implant case.
“Dow Chemical has been arrogant throughout all of the breast implant litigation,” Hornsby said. “They kept saying they knew nothing about breast implants and had nothing to do with developing them. They were anxious to do battle over the issue, and that’s what they got here in Reno.”
In the Nevada case, lawyers for Mahlum and her husband, Marvin, told jurors that Dow Chemical was as responsible for the safety of implants as Dow Corning, because the larger company had, among other things, performed studies on silicone for Dow Corning. They also said that Dow Chemical scientists were aware of the potential dangers of silicone, claims that both Dow Chemical and Dow Corning have repeatedly denied.