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Breast implant claimants to apply for GLO

5 January 2012

A group of 200 women with breast implants made by the French manufacturer Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) are to apply for a group litigation order (GLO) later this month, their solicitor has said.

The French government has recommended that implants are removed and the UK government is considering whether to issue similar advice. Up to 40,000 British women are thought to have the implants, the vast majority fitted by private clinics.

Mark Harvey, head of the claimant division at Hugh James in Cardiff, said that following recent media coverage, his existing group of 250 women had risen to 500.

Harvey said a “handful” of his claimants had issued proceedings in the last few months, but a much larger group of around 200 would be applying for a group litigation order later this month.

He said Hugh James had more implant claims than any of its rivals, and he believed there were a handful of other firms with “only a dozen or so”.

Harvey said proceedings would be brought against the clinics as consumer claims against the clinics which fitted the implants, on the grounds that they did not do what they promised and were in breach of contract.

“We want the government to work with the clinics to give people the option to have them removed at no cost to themselves,” he said.

Harvey added that even then, the women would be entitled to compensation for the cost of the initial surgery and the pain and distress they suffered.

Fraser Whitehead, partner at Russell, Jones & Walker, said the firm had received a “flood of inquiries” in recent days.

“We’ve had 70 calls in the last three days,” he said. “It is clearly important that women get legal advice at an early stage.”

However, Whitehead said that because the manufacturers had gone bust and were based in France and the complexity of the situation, with a large number of different clinics, litigation might not be the best way forward.

“We are trying to get all the interested parties together to try and find a holistic solution,” he said. “It is clear that something has to be done.”

Whitehead said a lot of the women did not know whether their implant was made by PIP or not and would only find out if clinics agreed to release medical notes.

“It would be a scandal if the cost fell on the taxpayer,” he added.

Susan Brown, head of personal injury and professional negligence at Prolegal in London, said the firm had advised women to go back to their clinics and ask if the implants could be removed free of charge.

“Some implants are guaranteed for 10 years, but, as far as I’m aware, the clinics are dragging their feet,” she said. “Some of them are so small that doing the work could put them out of business.”

Brown said that negligence claims against surgeons or clinics might be difficult if there was no indication that the implants were faulty apart from the fact they cost a tenth as much as their competitors.

“Every woman will be looking to the clinics to set their minds at rest or carry out revision surgery.”

Esther Smith, healthcare and life sciences partner at leading law firm Thomas Eggar, said: “What is clear at the present time, is that there are around 40,000 British women who are very concerned as to whether the implants they have had, privately or through the NHS, pose a health risk and therefore the pressing concern at this point in time is access to information and data.

“I would be surprised if anyone felt it morally acceptable to withhold such information in return for payment. All the women are asking for is confirmation of whether they had the PIP implants – the issue of who should bear the cost of corrective action is a secondary matter.”

Categorised in:

Clinical negligence