Thousands of victims of defective breast implants manufactured in France should receive compensation, a Paris appeals court ruled on Thursday after deciding that German firm TUV Rheinland was negligent in awarding safety certificates.
The case was brought by 2,700 women who said they had suffered long-term health problems after receiving the implants made by PIP (Poly Implant Prothese) which were filled with cheap, industrial-grade silicone not cleared for human use.
"It's a relief," one victim who identified herself as Christine told a news conference. "The legal process ends today but it doesn't end here for my health. I still have silicone in my body."
TUV Rheinland has previously disputed the liability. A spokesman declined immediate comment on the judgment, saying the company wanted first to receive a translation and to study it.
The ruling could have implications for thousands more women from dozens of countries around the world who received PIP implants.
The timing and amount of compensation is still to be determined, according to the PIP Implant World Victims Association (PIPA).
In a statement, PIPA said damages ranging between 20,000 and 70,000 euros were being sought for each victim. A first ruling on compensation was expected in September.
"We are delighted with this outcome which definitively puts an end to the doubts about TUV's responsibility," said lawyer Olivier Aumaitre who represented the women on behalf of PIPA.
PIP folded when the scandal erupted in 2010. Its founder, Jean-Claude Mas, was jailed for four years and fined 75,000 euros ($82,500) in 2013.
At the time Mas told the police investigation his employees would remove evidence of the industrial silicone gel before TUV Rheinland made its annual inspections.
The implants fraudulently manufactured by PIP were up to six times more likely to rupture than other implants, according to Britain's National Health Service.
Silicone has also been found to have leached into the bodies of women whose implants had remained intact.
Victims had suffered auto-immune disease, cancer scares, and prolonged anxiety, while the incidence rate of autism among children who were breastfed by mothers with PIP implants was far higher than normal rates, PIPA said.
Aumaitre said the court's ruling meant that TUV's negligence left it solely responsible for paying damages.
"After 10 years of waiting and fierce combat, the German certifier will have to fully compensate the victims," said Aumaitre.
PIPA is seeking compensation for some 20,000 victims and say more women, from Britain to Colombia, could come forward to demand compensation in French courts. Thursday's ruling paved the way for many more successful claims, the lawyer said.
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