December 3, 1996 in Nation/World

New Offer Made In Implant Case Dow Corning Offers $2 Billion Again - Most Paid Only If Court Rules Breast Implants Make Women Sick

Steve Sakson Associated Press

Emboldened by new studies that failed to prove a link between breast implants and disease, Dow Corning Corp. on Monday raised new obstacles to women seeking damages from the company.

Dow Corning, once the largest implant maker, made a new $2 billion settlement offer, but said it would only pay $600 million unless a court rules that the implants make people sick.

Dow Corning proposed paying $2 billion two years ago as part of an unsuccessful attempt to settle all implant claims around the world.

The stringent terms of the new offer partly reflect an accumulation of evidence that breast implants may not cause the litany of ills claimed by thousands of women, the company said. Those claims helped push Dow Corning into bankruptcy reorganization in May 1995.

“The evidence disproving a link between implants and disease has been overwhelming,” said Dow Corning spokesman Michael Jackson.

Dow Corning’s new offer is contained in a reorganization plan aimed at getting the company out of bankruptcy court.

Leaders of anti-breast implant groups condemned the plan as woefully inadequate, pointing out that when the settlement collapsed two years ago it was because thousands more women filed claims than expected.

The offer would be worth $6,666 to each of the roughly 300,000 women who received Dow Corning implants, although not every one is expected to file a claim.

“It’s a joke,” said Lynda Roth of Broomfield, Colo., who got sick after receiving a breast implant in 1990 following cancer surgery. “Every time they try to make a deal, it becomes less and less favorable to the people they have victimized,” said Roth, president of the Coalition of Silicone Survivors.

The reorganization plan, including the settlement offer, requires the approval of Bankruptcy Court Judge Arthur J. Spector.

Roughly 1 million American women have breast implants and many thousands claim they have gotten serious immune system diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus when the implants leaked or ruptured.

Dow Corning stopped making them in 1992 and the Food and Drug Administration has severely restricted their sale unless they can be proven safe. All the makers maintain they are safe, but several other implant makers have offered a separate settlement that has been accepted by about 91,000 women.

Of the $2 billion breast implant fund, $600 million would be earmarked for settlements, which would allow some women with breast implants to receive quick payments without a trial. These women would have to prove to a board of trustees appointed by Dow Corning that leaking implants caused injuries such as difficulty moving their arms.

The remaining $1.4 billion would be contingent on the outcome of a trial to resolve the central legal controversy over whether breast implants cause disease.

A court-appointed panel of doctors and scientists would evaluate the conflicting studies on breast implants and give its opinion at the trial.

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