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PIP breast implants: Only French victims can claim compensation from insurance company, rules ECJ

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By Laura Ruiz y Trullols, Greg Lory, Joanna Gill
Only French victims of faulty PIP breast implants can claim compensation, the European Court of Justice has ruled
Only French victims of faulty PIP breast implants can claim compensation, the European Court of Justice has ruled   -   Copyright  Euronews

Only French victims of a worldwide scandal involving PIP breast implants can claim compensation from the insurance company, the EU's top court has ruled.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) made the judgment in a case involving a German victim who was demanding damages from the insurer of French firm Poly Implant Prothèse (PIP). Her lawyer argued that a clause in the company’s policy restricting coverage to French victims was against EU law.

But the ECJ disagreed: “The general prohibition of discrimination on grounds of nationality cannot be the basis for challenging a clause, contained in a contract concluded between a manufacturer of medical devices and an insurance company, that places a territorial limit on civil liability insurance coverage."

PIP sold an estimated one million faulty breast implants in 65 countries around the world. Around 400,000 women were fitted with implants made from mattress-grade silicone.

For those battling for justice, the decision is beyond comprehension.

Sarah Hart, from the UK, says that no matter the nationality of the women who had the implants, they were from the same company, so each person should receive the same compensation.

Olivier Aumaître, one of the lawyers representing the victims, said the court's decision leaves many women without a lifeline.

What is worrying, he adds, is that over time the victims display more worrying symptoms "which suggest that the PIP gel is certainly potentially dangerous".

Aumaître laments that in 10 years since the scandal, EU legislation has done little to address the problem. While the faulty product could cross borders and be sold, consumer protection stops at the frontier.

The ruling falls as Europe — amid the COVID-19 pandemic — reflects on its role in protecting people's health across borders.

For those fighting for justice, their battle continues, another case is still underway.

The founder of the company that made faulty breast implants, Jean-Claude Mas, had a four-year jail sentence upheld by a French appeals court in 2016. In April 2019, he died while still indicted in two other proceedings.