A court in France has ordered German safety company TUV Rheinland to pay 17,000 women compensation for PIP breast implants which were manufactured by the bankrupt company Poly-Implant-Prothese.
The class action against the German company – which certified the safety of the PIP implants – was brought on the basis that TUV Rheinland had a responsibility to check the quality of the implants before issuing Poly-Implant-Prothese with a guarantee that they conformed to European standards. However, it was alleged, no such checks were made, and Poly-Implant-Prothese substituted a low grade of industrial silicone in place of the approved type in order to reduce costs.
According to a French study last year, up to a quarter of the PIP breast implants burst or leaked; some causing medical complications when the silicone gel secreted into the victims´ lymph nodes, and one woman in France is known to have died due to anaplastic large cell lymphoma. No long-term side effects have yet been confirmed, and experts believe that it may be many years before the full effect of the faulty PIP breast implants is known.
Solicitors on behalf of TUV Rheinland argued in court that the company was a victim of fraud, and that they were only expected to audit Poly-Implant-Prothese´s paperwork – not the implants themselves. However, solicitors representing the claimants said that TUV Rheinland failed to do its job properly and gave “global credibility” to a product which did not deserve it. It also emerged in court that the employee in charge of quality control had only a cookery diploma, while another in charge of the laboratory had previously trained as a pastry chef.
After hearing evidence on behalf of TUV Rheinland and the 17,000 claimants from Britain, France and South America, judges at the Commercial Court in Toulon found TUV Rheinland had “neglected its duties of vigilance” and awarded each claimant €3,000 (£2,500) immediately for the removal of their faulty breast implants, and a further €13,000 (£10,900) compensation for PIP breast implants to be received at a later date subject to an appeal by TUV Rheinland.
The verdict provides an opportunity for up to 400,000 women worldwide to claim compensation for PIP breast implants, and Jan Spivey – spokeswoman for the British plaintiffs and the PIP Action Campaign group – said “I am delighted. It is a first important victory for PIP victims worldwide and especially those British victims who have received no help from the health service or the Government. It means that they can start to get the surgical help [to replace defective implants] that they urgently need.”