German victims of defective breast implants made by French company Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) cannot claim damages from its insurer as its policy covered only French victims, Europe’s top court said on Thursday, dealing a blow to thousands of women worldwide.
The PIP scandal, in which the company filled its implants with unauthorized industrial silicone instead of medical silicone, occurred in 2010 and affected about 300,000 women in some 65 countries. The company shut down in 2010.
A German victim had sought compensation from PIP’s insurer Allianz IARD in a German court for her faulty breast implants, saying that a clause in the company’s policy which restricted coverage to French victims was against EU laws.
The Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union 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,” judges said.
The PIP Implant World Victims Association called for changes to EU rules for medical devices and more protection for cross-border consumers.
“The regulation favours international exchanges of products, which is a good thing, but consumer protection stops at the border,” said Olivier Aumaitre, a lawyer for the association.
“More than 10 years after the revelation of the scandal, the European authorities have still not deemed it necessary to remedy this major deficiency.”
PIP founder Jean-Claude Mas was jailed for four years and fined 75,000 euros ($85,365) in 2013 after a police investigation revealed a sophisticated fraud.