PARIS (AP) - A French appeals court ruled Thursday that a German product-testing company does not have to compensate more than 3,000 women with leak-prone breast implants - and now the women may have to pay back more than 11 million euros ($12 million) in collective damages they received in a lower-court ruling.
PARIS (AP) — A French appeals court ruled Thursday that a German product-testing company does not have to compensate more than 3,000 women with leak-prone breast implants — and now the women may have to pay back more than 11 million euros ($12 million) in collective damages they received in a lower-court ruling.
Tens of thousands of women worldwide received implants made by French company PIP, or Poly Implant Prothese. The implants were found to contain industrial-grade silicone instead of medical silicone and were prone to leakage.
PIP's owner was sentenced to prison for fraud, but his bankrupt company couldn't pay damages. So the women's lawyers sought compensation from German testing company TUV Rheinland and its French subsidiary instead.
A commercial court ordered TUV in 2013 to pay damages to women and six distributors, ruling that the testing company failed to properly check the implants.
But the appeals court in the southern city of Aix-en-Provence overturned that Thursday. A court statement said that TUV and its subsidiary "respected their obligations incumbent up them as certifying organizations." The ruling says TUV couldn't have been aware of the problems with the implants because of PIP's efforts to hide them.
It was not immediately clear whether lawyers for the women would appeal to a higher court.
A lawyer for TUV, Cecile Derycke, told The Associated Press that the ruling "is extremely important for us."
She said it was not a surprise, however, because in the criminal case against implant-maker PIP, the court found that TUV was a victim of the PIP owner's fraud.
She said that TUV was ordered to pay 3,400 euros to each woman who joined the lawsuit, and that Thursday's ruling "technically" means the women must now return that money to TUV. She said TUV has not yet made a decision on how it will handle next steps.
The lower court lawsuit involved 1,600 women, but another 1,700 women with the implants joined the case later, Derycke said.
In the separate criminal case against PIP, an appeals trial is expected later this year.
The implants were not available in the United States, but at least 125,000 women worldwide received them until sales ended in early 2010, from Britain to Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia.
After PIP went out of business, regulators across Europe began demanding tighter oversight of medical devices.