Implant lawsuits reported near settlement

March 14, 1994|By Los Angeles Times

Significant progress was made this weekend toward a record-setting $4.2 billion settlement to compensate thousands of women claiming injuries from silicone breast implants, according to attorneys for the women and three major corporations.

"It's a done deal," said a representative of one company, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Negotiators met over the weekend in Birmingham, Ala.

Another defense lawyer and attorneys for the women made similar comments, although they were not quite as definite.

"We made terrific progress with the Big 3 and some of the smaller defendants," said attorney Stanley Chesley of Cincinnati, one of five plaintiffs' lawyers involved in the negotiations. The so-called Big 3 are Dow Corning Corp., Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and Baxter Health Care Corp., the three chief distributors of the implants.

A $4.2 billion settlement would be twice as large as any prior settlement of a civil case in U.S. history, according to legal experts.

The money would provide funds to settle silicone-implant litigation worldwide over the next 30 years. For the plaintiffs, the settlement would compensate women for a wide range of medical problems, with the amount of compensation depending on the severity of injury. For the defendants, it would erect a partial ceiling on liability for companies participating in the deal.

Two major defendants, Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Corp. and General Electric Co., have not joined the tentative settlement, according to Chesley and Michael Gallagher, a Houston lawyer who also is on the plaintiffs' negotiating committee.

Yesterday, the representatives of the companies and plaintiffs gave U.S. District Judge Sam E. Pointer Jr., who is presiding over the thousands of breast implant suits represented in this negotiation, a copy of their draft agreement and are to meet with him again Wednesday.

Any deal would have to be approved by Judge Pointer.

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