The Dirty Little Secrets of
Sightings from The Catbird Seat
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October 10, 2007
Lawyer: Pesticide left
By NOAKI SCHWARTZ, Associated Press Writer
LOS ANGELES – A lawyer for a dozen Nicaraguan banana workers argued Wednesday that Dole Fresh Fruit Co. and Dow Chemical Co. robbed his clients of the ability to have children by overexposing them to a harmful pesticide.
The claim by attorney Duane Miller, who represents the workers, came in his closing argument in a three-month civil trial targeting the world's largest producer of fresh fruits and vegetables and the giant chemical company.
"As adults, we decide whether we want children or not," Miller told jurors. "This is a case about a decision made for my clients instead of by my clients."
The lawsuit accuses Dole and Standard Fruit Co., now a part of Dole, of negligence and fraudulent concealment while using the pesticide DBCP in Nicaragua.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved using the chemical, intended for killing microscopic worms on the roots of banana plants, until 1979. In Nicaragua, it was legal from 1973 until 1993.
The workers also claim Dow "actively suppressed information about DBCP's reproductive toxicity."
Dole and Dow deny liability.
Among five cases filed in Los Angeles County by at least 5,000 agricultural workers from Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama, this is the first to go to trial.
During his closing argument, Dow attorney Gennaro "Gus" Filice said the workers did not have enough exposure to DBCP to have any effect. Experts analyzed the exposure and found it to be insignificant, he said....
Filice also claimed many workers had other health problems that could have made it difficult to have children, including venereal disease and infections.
Miller claimed the growers improperly applied the pesticide in amounts far exceeding guidelines.
Many of the workers had slept at the banana plantation, where their clothes became wet from water dripping from pesticide-treated trees, and they routinely breathed vapor from the pesticide, Miller told jurors.
Miller also pointed to documents from the 1960s and 1970s that he said showed Dole and Dow were aware of dangers connected with the pesticide.
"From the beginning the warning signs were there," Miller said.
He noted that medical experts who had examined his clients found 11 of 12 had no sperm in their bodies and detected other symptoms reflecting exposure to a toxic chemical.
In his closing argument, Dole attorney Rick McKnight said Miller told half-truths, and he tried to poke holes in Miller's accounts about his clients.
A judge previously granted Dow's petition to apply Michigan law to the amount and types of possible damages.
Michael L. Brem, one of the attorneys for Midland, Mich.-based Dow, has said this would cap any compensatory damages at $394,200 per plaintiff.
June 13, 2007
In Hawaii case, EPA fines Del Monte
Pacific Business News (Honolulu) - by Howard Dicus
The Environmental Protection Agency has fined Fresh Del Monte Produce for improper use of registered pesticides in violation of federal law.
The $24,640 fine pertains to the pineapple operations in the Kunia area of Oahu, which Saudi-owned Fresh Del Monte abruptly ended last December, a year earlier than it had previously said.
EPA accused Fresh Del Monte of misusing Telone II, Assure II, and Diazinon 50 W Pro in 2004 and 2005. It said the company failed to protect workers from exposure to drifting pesticides, failed to provide decontamination supplies, and failed to tell workers of pesticide applications.
"Companies must ensure employees applying pesticides protect themselves and others from potential pesticide exposure by following all label requirements," said Katherine Taylor, EPA associate director for ecosystems in the Pacific region. "Failure to obey these necessary safeguards is considered a serious violation and can endanger the employees and others in the area."
State inspectors said the violations happened repeatedly. The Hawaii Department of Agriculture discovered 28 violations during inspections performed in April 2004, May 2004 and September 2005.
Worker complaints triggered the initial investigation.
Earlier this week, EPA announced a consent decree with the owner of the Kunia land, the James Campbell Co., which agreed not to build homes or schools on land contaminated by toxic chemicals, and to put an identical requirement into any contract to sell or lease the land to someone else.
Reach Howard Dicus at firstname.lastname@example.org
January 5, 2005
Dow Chemical's Nasty Little Secret
Agent Orange Dump found under New Zealand Town
A former top official at New Plymouth's lvon Watkins Dow chemical factory has confirmed the worst fears of residents - part of the town may be sitting on a secret toxic waste dump containing the deadly Vietnam War defoliant Agent Orange.
The official, who has proven his identity and executive ranking in documents provided to Investigate, says the company owned a large piece of land 'very close to the chemical plant, which we called 'the Experimental Farm'. We bulldozed big pits and dumped thousands of tonnes of chemicals there."
And what did the chemical cocktail include?
'There have been rumours circulating for some time, never proven, that IWD was supplying the defoliant Agent Orange to be used in the Vietnam War. The allegation is true. I was on the management committee of Ivon Watkins Dow, and I supported the plan to export Agent Orange. In fact, it went ahead on my casting vote.
'People who'd served in the armed forces made a strong case for the need to defoliate the jungle, because of the risk to servicemen from ambush or sniper fire from the undergrowth.
"So we began manufacturing this Agent Orange, but it didn't meet the international specifications and probably had an excess of 'nastes' in it. The problem was, we didn't consider the product was harmful to humans at the time.
"Our scientists relied on assurances and technical data provided to them by Dow Chemicals in the USA. We were led to believe it was safe. The whole reason I supported Agent Orange is because we thought we were giving our boys on the ground a hand.
"To avoid detection, we shipped the Agent Orange to South America - Mexico if I recall correctly - and it was onshipped to its final destination from there."
The former IWD boss' confessions will come as a bombshell - not just to the company which for more than 30 years has managed to avoid admitting to it, but also to the credibility of the last Labour Government, which arranged a Parliamentary Select Committee Inquiry in 1990 into the matter.
That lnquiry's findings were that "No conclusive facts or evidence were provided to the Committee to substantiate the claim that IWD manufactured the formation of Agent Orange in New Zealand during the Vietnam War."
At the time, the Select Committee's terms of reference were attacked as being too narrow, and the Labour dominated committee did not call any former executives of Ivon Watkins Dow to give evidence. It is now easy to see why.
'Agent Orange was made from two chemicals," our source explained in an exclusive interview, "2,4-D and 2,4,5,T. When they're apart, they're herbicides. Mixed together, they become Agent Orange. Now at this time, in the late 1960s and early seventies, the Government had given IWD the exclusive licence to manufacture those chemicals. We made all of the 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T that was produced in New Zealand. No one else was allowed to. Technically, we shipped the chemicals unmixed, so technically they weren't Agent Orange until somebody mixed them at the final destination."
IWD's role in manufacturing the deadly herbicide resulted from a US approach to the New Zealand Government, and the Defence Ministry had sounded out whether IWD could provide 500,000 gallons of it, quickly. Although news of the plan later leaked out, the National Government tried to distance itself and the impression was left that the Agent Orange deal never went ahead.
Given that official US reports record that around 9 million gallons of Agent Orange were dumped on Vietnam, the size of the NZ contract was reasonably substantial.
The official's evidence is likely to open the way for New Zealand Vietnam Veterans to sue both Dow Agrosciences, which now operates the IWD plant, and the New Zealand Government for compensation. Vietnam veterans and their families have, in many cases, suffered major health problems and birth defects as a result of alleged exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam, but up until now there's been no proof that IWD was definitely involved.
The revelations get worse, however. The official says leftover Agent Orange chemicals, complete with 'excess nasties" were re-worked into the 2,4,5-T herbicide for use on farms within New Zealand, and surplus chemicals were dumped at the Experimental Farm, which is now believed to lie underneath the New Plymouth suburb of Paritutu.
Which may explain why the suburb has the highest levels of the deadly chemical dioxin - an ingredient of Agent Orange - ever recorded in a New Zealand urban area, according to a Ministry for the Environment report in 1998. If the official's testimony is correct, it is highly likely that leachate from 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T dumped in the ground would eventually mix - assuming they hadn't been tossed in to the same pit together already - creating a lethal Agent Orange mix under the soil.
"I remember at one meeting,' says the former IWD top executive, 'that there was some real concern expressed about the chemical dump. 'If it leaches down onto the beach, we're going to be in real trouble'," one IWD scientist had warned. The dumping operation was described by our source as "surreptitious".
And if any further proof were needed that surplus Agent Orange had been dumped at New Plymouth, local residents found a drum of the chemical on the beach near Waireka Stream.
But a local newspaper report in the mid-seventies sheds more light on the situation:
"Drums of chemical waste buried under lvon Watkins Dow Ltd's proposed housing subdivision are not considered a hazard by its management," the Taranaki Herald newspaper begins.
"The Managing Director, Mr R M Bellen, confirmed that drums of waste had been buried in the land, but said none of the material was dioxin and all was expected to degrade in the ground without any harmful effects.
"They were also buried in a remote part of the proposed subdivision where they would not cause problems to development.
'The existence of the drums was brought to the public's attention by a letter to the editor of the Herald, signed by 'Concerned'. He said large quantities of drums containing chemicals were buried in trenches over a period of years. Five years ago [I 972] one of the Taranaki newspapers ran a picture of the work in progress.
"By now the soil will be contaminated and the fitting of underground services will further spread the chemicals,' he said. 'Dioxin and other unwanted chemicals are now destroyed in an incinerator. About 12 years ago IWD dumped drums of chemicals in the city dump. The chemical seeped into the Mangaetuku Stream and the city council spent days collecting the dead eels and burying them'.'
The chemicals being dumped in 1972, after the US decided to stop using Agent Orange in Vietnam, were highly likely to have been Agent Orange or its ingredients. Having boosted production to meet the US orders, IWD was left with tens of thousands of gallons of the deadly poison.
And there's documentary evidence to support the claims by the former IWD boss that Agent Orange, complete with some of the most lethal toxins known to man, was reworked into ordinary farm herbicides for use within New Zealand.
A 1987 Ministry of Agriculture report notes the use of a "scrub dessicant" on our farms, made up in equal measure by combining 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D. In other words: Agent Orange.
Our executive source's wife also recalls the 'hush hush" nature of the Agent Orange programme: "My husband came home one night when all the fuss was going on about Agent Orange, and I remember him saying to me 'We must never breathe a word of this to anyone. No one must ever find out'."
Time, and a realisation that the chemical was more deadly than he or his colleagues at IWD realised, have changed his opinion. "It is time for the truth to emerge. Something needs to be done," he says.
Investigate approached Health Minister Annette King who has so far proved reluctant to dig into the matter, and asked if she would be prepared to consider granting the former official immunity if he testified at a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the matter. So far, the Minister has failed to respond.
At stake for the government could be massive compensation payments: these are the same herbicides used on most farms throughout New Zealand, chemicals which may explain a sudden explosion in birth defects and chronic illnesses in children and adults from the 1960s onward. The cost in health bills to the country over the past 30 years may far exceed what the Government spends on tobacco related illnesses or car crashes, which may also explain the expensive TV advertising campaigns - a distraction from the bigger issue.
The former IWD boss says he and his colleagues all had shareholdings in the company, something he believes was an effective means of buying silence and loyalty.
Among the documents provided by the official is a copy of IWD's 1967 Annual Report, which discloses that the company purchased 400 acres of land to use for experimenting with herbicides and pesticides. This included a 300 acre dairy farm stretching south from the main chemical factory, a 90 acre "research farm" at Waireka Stream, and a 12 acre research farm at Junction Rd in New Plymouth. This was in addition to the 29 acres that the factory originally sat on in Paritutu.
'Possession of the new research station," wrote IWD Managing Director Dan Watkins in his report to shareholders in 1967, "and the developed area at Junction Rd, as well as the 300 acre Beach Road Dairy Farm helps materially in keeping us close to all types of farming and to all means of production from the soil. Thus we are able to evaluate critically new methods of pasture and crop protection with insecticides and weed control with herbicides, as well as means of raising production by the use of fertilisers."
But while Prime Minister Helen Clark's colonial government continues to duck for cover, it's been revealed dying Vietnam War veterans are threatening to "do a Timothy McVeigh' - a reference to the American anti-government protestor allegedly responsible for blowing up the federal building in Oklahoma City several years ago.
Vietnam Veterans Association chief, John Moller, says passions are running so high that he and his colleagues have had to work "damned hard" recently to persuade dying veterans whose children have also been affected by dioxin-related deformities, "not to take the law into their own hands. These guys have had enough. They're being cheated and lied to by the politicians and the bureaucrats.'
US health authorities have recently added diabetes to the list of diseases caused by dioxin, and Moller points out that the massive rate of diabetes in the Maori community may be a direct result of exposure to the 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T herbicides.
"Go back two or three decades and a lot of Maori people were working outside, as farmhands, labourers, railway workers, soldiers, forestry workers - all of them in areas where they came into contact with chemicals containing dioxin."
And the point about dioxin is that it doesn't just affect the person originally exposed, it affects their children through several generations as well. There is evidence, still being collated by Investigate, of politicians having financial links to chemical manufacturers in the past, which may also be a factor in why successive governments have either been reluctant to investigate, or they've set up dodgy, "Yes Minister" type inquiries designed to prolong the cover-up.
Meanwhile, environmental campaigner and Paritutu resident Andrew Gibbs, whose investigations brought the disaster to light, is researching the involvement of Broadbank Corporation as the developer of Paritutu subdivision, and whether it knew or should have known it was building houses on a toxic dump.
Broadbank was managed at the time by Don Brash, the man who is now Governor of the Reserve Bank.
April 22, 2002
Fabric from Corn: Greenfleece, or Greenwash?
By Tom Price
Special to Corpwatch
The dramatic ads feature thought provoking tag lines such as "the seeds of a revolution are sometimes just that," and "unlike every other revolutionary product, this one won't change the world." Blanketing the outdoor equipment trade press over the last several months, the ads hype the biggest environmental breakthrough in fabrics since the creation of fleece from recycled plastic soda bottles.
The marketing blitz by Cargill Dow heralded the unveiling of a line of fabrics called "NatureWorks PLA" (polylactic acid), made entirely from corn. At first blush it seems like the sort of environmental wonder technology always promised.
Rather than spinning the fuzzy fabric from oil, NatureWorks uses the natural sugars in corn, an annually renewable crop. Cargill Dow boasts its invention is a virtually limitless, 'clean' product, free of the taint of the pollution and controversy of the oil industry.
Even more miraculous, the technology isn't limited to apparel. Cargill Dow has plans to further "green" the marketplace with a bewildering array of corn-based products including carpeting, wall panels, upholstery, interior furnishings, outdoor fabrics, as well as plastics like film around CDs and golf ball sleeves. These products are even environmentally friendly when finished -- PLA can be completely recycled in commercial compost facilities. All this from an engineering process that cuts fossil fuel use in half compared to traditional oil-based technologies. What could environmentalists possibly find wrong with these wonder products?
Behind the Hype
Missing from all the hype is the fact that the source material for these
products is genetically engineered corn.
Missing from all the hype is the fact that the source material for these products is genetically engineered corn, designed by one of Cargill Dow's corporate parents, Cargill Inc., a world leader in genetic engineering. The obvious implication: by creating massive non-food markers for genetically engineered (GE) products, Cargill and other biotech companies expect to do an end run around the global campaign to stop GE proliferation. They hope that by creating so many products with such an irresistible green appeal, any voices of concern will be drowned out by the sheer weight of the marketplace.
Of course, this isn't the story Cargill Dow wants you to hear. They'd rather you logged on to their relentlessly self congratulatory web site, which boasts that "Cargill Dow is launching an industrial revolution in which petroleum based products are replaced with annually renewable ones in other words, unlimited resources to replace limited ones."
"Reducing our environmental impact while at the same time producing a superior product is why our company exists," gushes the company website.
In fact, Cargill Dow exists to create new markets for the products of its parent companies. Cargill Dow is a stand-alone company created by two of the leaders bioengineering, Cargill Inc. and Dow Chemical. Minnesota-based Cargill is both the world's largest privately held company and the planet's largest producer of corn. In fact, it already controls about 60% of the corn market in India, despite higher prices for their GE corn seed.
A study by the Dutch banking conglomerate, Rabobank, estimates the global market for hybridized and genetically engineered crops at $30 billion and anticipates that it will go to $90 billion.
Cargill and Dow spun off the new company to take advantage of strategic strengths each had, namely biotechnology and advanced chemical processes, and the first outlet for their products was the environmentally friendly, health-oriented outdoor clothing industry.
Some PR Gaffs
Unfortunately for Cargill Dow, they stumbled twice right out of the gate in their promotion of PLA as a "green" alternative to oil-based products. Their first SNAFU was trying to dupe the company they chose to market their material.
Given that the outdoor apparel industry is always on the lookout for better/greener products, meant Cargill Dow could have their pick of companies to team up with. They chose Patagonia, based in Ventura, California.
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"It seemed almost too good to be true. Unfortunately, it was."
-- Jill Zillengen, Patagonia
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It seemed a natural fit: Patagonia is well known for a commitment to environmental sustainability, and as developer of green technologies. They jumped at the new technology and spent years working with Cargill Dow on its development. But the relationship eventually soured. As Jill Zillegen, Patagonia vice president for Environmental Affairs put it, "At first, we could barely contain our excitement about the promise of PLAit seemed almost too good to be true. Unfortunately, it was."
Patagonia bailed out of the project when executives found out that Cargill Dow couldn't -- or wouldn't -- guarantee a GE-free source of corn for the new fabrics. Currently about 30% of domestic corn is Genetically Engineered. But as Dan Dye, vice president of the North American Grain Group for Cargill Inc., points out keeping them separate is "neither practical nor economically viable" for the company.
So, despite the obvious production and marketing benefits of using PLA, Patagonia passed. "We have invested a significant amount of time, research, and even hope in PLA, explained Zillegen. After many difficult discussions she says the company decided that "using inadequately tested, genetically engineered organisms is not a solution to the environmental crisis."
Unfortunately for Cargill Dow, the clothing company didn't go quietly. At the Outdoor Retailer trade show where PLA was unveiled, Patagonia devoted two full pages of their catalogue and put up large billboards explaining why they weren't using the product.
At the same show, Cargill Dow was forced into an embarrassing about face, after they were caught implying an endorsement for their products from eco-group Greenpeace. In the weeks leading up to the unveiling, Cargill Dow PR executive Vicki Bausman brandished an article in a Greenpeace, UK magazine by Cargill Dow VP for Technology Dr. Pat Gruber extolling the virtue of PLA process, hinting that it was an implicit endorsement by the environmental group. After repeated questioning by reporters she admitted that Gruber never told Greenpeace, a long-timeopponent of genetically engineered crops, that Cargill Dow intended to use GE corn as their source material.
Not surprisingly, when Greenpeace activists caught wind of Cargill Dow's plans, they were furious. "The proliferation of genetic pollution through these GE crops has the potential to be the greatest environmental disaster in history, and it is highly disingenuous to claim this is green when it uses GE corn," said Craig Culp of Greenpeace USA.
A Green Company?
Meanwhile corporate parent Cargill is attempting an image makeover as an eco-friendly business in the face of growing worldwide opposition to its genetically engineered products. In February executives unveiled a new corporate logo featuring a green leaf, and ads displaying a butterfly with the tag line "there's a new Cargill taking shape, " a move sure to make GE activists wince, since Monarch butterflies have been among the signature species impacted by GE pollen. Their TV ads feature young children standing outside in rain-drenched fields and in front of green-power windmills.
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"Kellogg's has Franken-food, and Cargill Dow is now making Franken-fleece."
-- Craig Culp, Greenpeace
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Most recently, Cargill quietly bankrolled a new "academic organization" in Thailand aimed at extolling the virtues of GE crops, according to the Bangkok Post. Activists, like Isabella Meister of Greenpeace, believe that the biotech giant chose Thailand because it "the only country in the region that has formulated a clear policy about GMOs, such as a ban on the import and commercial plantation of GM seeds." While the new institute's director denies any ties to international biotechnology companies, her group's website admits it is funded by those same companies.
Back in the US, Cargill Dow presses ahead with their plans to create not just the raw material, but the finished product as well as marketplace for their GE corn. While the potential benefits of this technology to reduce dependence on non-renewable sources is indeed enormous, it remains to be seen whether Cargill Dow will follow through on their promises to create non-GE sources for PLA such as straw.
Until they do, critics of bio-engineered crops see no difference between PLA and the GE corn Kellogg's uses in its cereal. "Kellogg's has Franken-food, and Cargill Dow is now making Franken-fleece," explained Craig Culp of Greenpeace.
Still unanswered is the question of whether enough concern will be raised about PLA products, before they are so deeply entrenched in the marketplace that removing them becomes impossible.
Cargill Dow isn't waiting around to find out. On April 2nd, they announced the opening of a new $750 million factory, the largest producer of polylactic acid on the planet. Sprawling over sixteen acres of former cornfields in Blair, Nebraska, the massive facility can generate more than 300 million pounds of Natureworks PLA per year, using some 40,000 bushels of Cargill corn every day in the process.
– After spending eight years working as a conservationist on Capitol Hill, Tom Price returned to his home town of Salt Lake City. He now works as a freelance journalist covering environment, culture and travel.
Dow Chemical and the
Use of Napalm
It was never a big part of their business, less than one percent. But napalm would rapidly become Dow Chemical Company's best-known product, and its use in Vietnam triggered widespread student protests.
A Small Chemical Company
Napalm had been used before, most notably in the incendiary bombs that devastated large swaths of Japanese cities during World War II, including some 60 percent of Tokyo. What distinguished Napalm B, the variant employed in Vietnam, was how easily it could be made. Simple "bathtub chemistry" was used to mix together a concoction of gasoline, benzene, and polystyrene.
In 1965 the Pentagon requested bids from the 17 U.S. companies that made polystyrene; one of the winning bids was from a small company based in Midland, Michigan, called Dow Chemical. Dow was only ranked 75th on a 1967 list of military contractors; before getting into the napalm business, it was best known as the maker of Saran Wrap.
But Dow soon became the military's sole supplier of napalm, which meant that when its use in the Vietnam War became controversial, Dow was the only corporate target.
For such a simple thing to make, napalm had horrific human consequences. A bit of liquid fire, a sort of jellied gasoline, napalm clung to human skin on contact and melted off the flesh. Witnesses to napalm's impact described eyelids so burned they could not be shut and flesh that looked like "swollen, raw meat."
In Vietnam, the first televised war, viewers began to see images of the civilian casualties caused by napalm bombs, and a January 1967 article in Ramparts magazine presented color photographs of mutilated Vietnamese children. The pictures helped Martin Luther King Jr. decide to go public with his opposition to the war. And at colleges across America, students brandished the photographs as they began protesting Dow recruiters.
The first demonstrations occurred in October 1966 at the Berkeley campus of the University of California and Wayne State University in Michigan, and over the next year, more than a hundred other protests would take place.
The two key student demonstrations at the University of Wisconsin, in February and October 1967, were both triggered by Dow recruitment on campus.
The Company Response
Dow's senior management did not even know about the initial napalm contract, it was considered such a minor matter. And even at the height of production, only a few handfuls of employees worked on making napalm out of a total workforce of 35,000. But napalm soon became a defining issue for Dow.
The company's initial response, which essentially sought to get the Pentagon to take responsibility for the use of napalm and thereby absolve Dow management, did nothing to stem the protests. In 1967 the Dow board discussed whether to stop producing napalm; although there were dissenters, the board voted to stay the course.
Meanwhile, Dow recruiters found themselves trapped in interview rooms, spat on, forced to hustle out of back exits, and called "baby killers."...
Company visibility soared; 88% of those polled in one survey had heard of Dow, a figure comparable to America's largest corporations. But Dow was known almost exclusively for making napalm. The company began distributing a "Napalm News" to employees and embarked on an aggressive public relations campaign to improve Dow's image. It also continued to recruit on campuses.
But even after the company stopped making napalm in 1969, the protests continued. Not all the consequences of student demonstrations were negative, though. According to director of public relations Ned Brandt, "you could not have gotten... better advertising" than student protests; on many campuses, it became a "badge of honor" to be interviewed by Dow, and the number of interviews increased.
What no one suspected at the time was that the product that would prove most costly to Dow had not generated any protests; the company also manufactured the defoliant Agent Orange.
Its use would be linked to cancer and other illnesses among Vietnam veterans for years to come.
February 15, 1996
Dow Corning Wins a Big Insurance
Suit On Implants
By BARRY MEIER
The Dow Corning Corporation won an important legal victory yesterday that could help speed its emergence from bankruptcy, as a Michigan jury found that the company's insurers were liable for covering costs from lawsuits involving its silicone breast implants.
The decision, which followed a three-month trial in Wayne County Circuit Court in Detroit, would require about 30 insurers that had not previously settled with Dow Corning to provide it with about $400 million in product liability coverage. The insurers had refused to pay claims, asserting that Dow Corning had hidden the scope of the implants' liability.
The affected insurers include the Allstate Insurance Company, the Home Insurance Company and Employers Insurance of Wausau. At least one company, Home Insurance, said it planned to appeal the decision.
Previously, Dow Corning had settled out of court with other insurers that agreed to cover roughly $545 million in claims and up to $630 million in future claims.
Dow Corning, which is based in Midland, Mich., is a joint venture between the Dow Chemical Company and Corning Inc.
In May, Dow Corning, citing an avalanche of health claims related to breast implants, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy court protection. As a result, said Edward Rich, Dow Corning's treasurer, the insurance proceeds will be used in Federal bankruptcy court to pay costs associated with breast implant claims or other claims against Dow Corning.
"This decision marks a major positive milestone for Dow Corning and will help us move through the Chapter 11 process, as we prepare our financial reorganization plan," Richard Hazelton, the company's chief executive, said in a statement....
Margaret Branch, a plaintiffs' lawyer in Albuquerque, N.M., who is representing breast implant recipients in the bankruptcy proceedings, said that the required insurance coverage, if upheld on appeal, should swell the money available to those recipients.
"It's great for the women," Ms. Branch said. "But it should be earmarked to pay them and not be used to run the company's business."
An insurance trade group expressed disappointment at the jury's verdict. "This decision appears to be a bailout for irresponsible manufacturers," Janet E. Bachman, vice president of the American Insurance Association's claims administration department, said in a statement. "Wrong-headed decisions like this one will shift costs to insurers that should be borne by manufacturers."
Thousands of women have contended that silicone leaking from breast implants have caused a variety of serious health problems, including rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Dow Corning and other producers of implants dispute such contentions.
Dow Corning sued about 100 of its insurers in 1993 after they refused to defend against or settle breast implant claims. The insurers did not contend that the implants caused serious health risk but they argued that they should not have to pay because Dow Corning had misrepresented the litigation risks posed by the devices.
They also argued that the company had inadequately tested the product before marketing it and had withheld information about the implants, including doubts expressed by doctors about their long-term safety. Dow Corning said that it had provided its insurers with all the information they had sought and that complications caused by implants, such as hardening of breast tissue and ruptures, were well known long before the insurers balked at paying claims.
Dow Corning, which was the nation's largest producer of breast implants and silicone, stopped making the devices in 1992 shortly after the Food and Drug Adminstration called for a moratorium on their use. Some 18,000 claims have been filed against the company by breast implant recipients.
Prior to the start of a trial last fall in Detroit, the company settled with more half of its insurers. During the trial, at which about $1 billion in coverage was in dispute, it reached agreement with another group of more than 10 companies, including the American International Group.
Mr. Rich, Dow Corning's treasurer, declined to discuss the settlements, but did say they would be submitted shortly to the bankruptcy court for approval.
Mr. Rich said that the company was also seeking to recover several hundred million dollars of coverage from insurers not involved in the Michigan case....
For more, GO TO > > > The Downfall of Dow Corning
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For more, GO TO > > >
AIG: The Un-American Insurance Group
All God’s Creatures
Birds in the Lobby
Down on The Factory Farm
The Downfall of Dow Corning
The Biotech Birds
The Impending Impeachment of George W. Bush
The Vultures in Cargill
The World Trade Organization
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