Loot dispute

The SE Texas Record Jul. 28, 2007, 4:50am

Houston lawyer John O'Quinn has to return $35.7 million in misbegotten legal fees to a group of past clients. They're plaintiffs in his 1990s crusade that bankrupted silicone breast implant-maker Dow Corning.

O'Quinn misled and overcharged the women, a Port Arthur arbitrator ruled last week.

He also used junk science and despicable scare tactics to destroy a wholly-legitimate business. But for what O'Quinn did to Dow Corning and its employees, ginning up thousands of merit-less lawsuits so as to bully the company into bankruptcy, judgment will come another day.

Alas, O'Quinn won't fret over the $35.7 million fine, which represents pocket change to a man with so much wealth, he's reportedly spent $100 million on a car collection that includes the Pope-mobile.

The rub here is that silicone breast implants are widely used and FDA-approved today. That's because they're safe and have always been safe-- countless studies, including one by the Mayo Clinic, have proven as much.

But when O'Quinn was trying the case here in question, as well as many others, he was arguing to the court that the opposite was true. O'Quinn hadn't done scientific research, but that didn't stop him from asserting that silicone breast implants caused a connective tissue disease.

Juries bought O'Quinn's arguments then and awarded him millions. His claims have now been thoroughly and consistently debunked, but O'Quinn is hardly repentant today.

We don't feel sorry for him, nor do we feel a hint of satisfaction for the plaintiffs he's paying.

They didn't deserve a penny in the first place, and their willing participation in O'Quinn's self-serving crusade was just as greedy and distasteful. If any of them had a conscience, they'd return the money to its rightful owners-- Dow Corning shareholders.

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