French ruling due on German firm in breast implants scandal
A French court rules Thursday on whether German safety standards firm TUV is liable for a worldwide health scare over defective breast implants for which it gave the all-clear.
TUV Rheinland had certified that implants made by Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) conformed to European safety rules, but the French firm was subsequently found to have used substandard, industrial-grade silicone gel that caused abnormally high implant rupture rates, sparking a global scare in 2011.
Six distributors of the faulty implants from Bulgaria, Brazil, Italy, Syria, Mexico and Romania are suing TUV for 28 million euros ($38 million), as are more than 1,600 women who were fitted with the implants -- most of them from South America but also from France and Britain.
The victims are asking for 16,000 euros each, taking the total claims against TUV to 53 million euros.
An estimated 300,000 women in 65 countries are believed to have received the faulty PIP implants, and more than 16,000 women have had them removed.
However health officials in various countries have said they are not toxic and are not thought to increase the risk of breast cancer.
Proceedings against TUV took place in March and the ruling in a court in the southern city of Toulon is expected on Thursday afternoon, in the presence of some of the plaintiffs.
This civil trial comes on top of a high-profile criminal court case that took place in April and May in the nearby city of Marseille against PIP founder Jean-Claude Mas and four other executives.
All five are charged with aggravated fraud for using the industrial-grade silicone in implants, and a ruling on that case is expected on December 10.
In the TUV case, lawyers for the distributors and victims have condemned the German firm for not ever having checked the implants despite all the means at their disposal, such as unexpected inspections or sample testing.
But lawyers for TUV have retorted that it was never the German firm's job to check the actual implants, and their task was only to inspect the manufacturing process.
The substandard gel was found in 75 percent of PIP breast implants, saving the company about one million euros annually, according to an ex-company executive. The firm has since been liquidated.
© 2013 AFP