Three major U.S. corporations signed a record-breaking $3.75 billion settlement yesterday with lawyers representing thousands of women who contend they were seriously injured by silicone gel breast implants.
Dow Corning Corp., Baxter International Inc. and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. agreed to fund the largest settlement of a products liability case in U.S. history.
Several other companies have tentatively agreed to contribute about $170 million, bringing the settlement to nearly $4 million. It is possible that the deal could be enriched by another $750 million if Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Co., Union Carbide Corp. and General Electric Co. join the settlement. Negotiations with those companies are continuing, plaintiffs lawyers said.
Although he maintained that Dow has a strong defense to the thousands of lawsuits against the company, Gary E. Anderson, Dow's executive vice president, said, "A settlement is in the best interest of all parties involved." Baxter and Bristol representatives confirmed that a settlement had been concluded but did not issue formal statements.
The implants have become a litigation nightmare for the companies. About 12,000 cases have been filed around the country by women who contend that they are suffering from a variety of medical problems stemming from their implants.
About 1 million women received implants between 1962 and 1992, when the federal Food and Drug Administration restricted their use. Many of the suits maintain that silicone leaked out of the implant pouch and migrated throughout women's bodies, causing autoimmune diseases, including scleroderma, arthritis and lupus.
Yesterday, 24-hour phone line, 1-800-887-6828, was set up so that women can call and request information about the settlement.