Sunday 22 April 2018

Damages for Samantha Gibbs over PIP implants assessed ‘within weeks’

Tim Healy

AN assessment of damages due to a Co Roscommon woman, who had defective silicone gel prostheses implanted in her breasts, is likely to be heard within the next few weeks, the Circuit Civil Court heard today.

Samantha Gibbs was refused a second judgment against The Harley Medical Group (Ireland) Limited despite having been told it was a “different” company although bearing an identical name to one against which judgment had already been granted for default of appearance.

Barrister Sarah Reid, counsel for Ms Gibbs, of Hillside, Ballintubber, Castlerea, told Judge Jacqueline Linnane that although the companies bore the same name they were registered at separate addresses in the British Virgin Islands.

“There was a multiplicity of company names referred to on the contract booking form used by the defendant,” Ms Reid said.

She said the court had allowed Ms Gibbs to re-enter her second claim against The Harley Medical Group (Ireland) Limited in liquidation and she was now seeking judgment against that company registered at a different address.  “It is a different company,” she said.

Judge Linnane said Ms Gibbs already held a judgment in default of appearance for her claim against a company of identical name in the British Virgin Islands and the court was not prepared to duplicate its decision.

The judge said an assessment of damages in relation to the existing judgment was due to be heard by the court.

Ms Gibbs is one of hundreds of women who have sued the Harley Group, formerly of 5 Herbert Place, Dub lin 2, and two other Irish cosmetic clinics for breach of contract in the surgical insertion of Poly Implant Protheses (PIPs) manufactured by a French company.

Ms Reid had already told the court that Ms Gibbs had initiated her damages claim after learning from widespread media coverage in 2007 that the implants could rupture and leak industrial grade silicone into her body.

She said the company had applied to the High Court to be wound up and was now in liquidation.  Ms Justice Mary Laffoy had already been told that the Caribbean-based company was “hopelessly insolvent.”

Ms Reid told Judge Linnane that in accordance with a Circuit Civil Court direction a full copy of the proceedings had recently been served on the High Court appointed liquidator whose response was to indicate a complete cessation of correspondence on the matter.

Two other Irish clinics, Clane Hospital, Co Kildare, and Shandon Street Hospital, Cork, have also used breast enlargement PIP implants leakages from which it was feared could cause cancer.

Last year, following a collapse in efforts to have treatment provided by the cosmetic surgery clinics that fitted them, the Department of Health stated it would assume responsibility for the cost of removing them from Irish women if it was deemed clinically necessary.

The Department announced that appropriate care on the scale required had not been forthcoming from the three clinics involved and, as a result, the State would fund an alternative treatment service under the National Treatment Purchase Fund.

It is believed that up to 1,500 Irish women had PIP implants fitted.

In the earlier High Court proceedings Pierre Guillot, a director of the company seeking a winding up order, stated in an affidavit that the entire issued share capital of The Harley Medical Group (Ireland) Limited was held by Praxis Trustees Limited, a company registered in Guernsey.

He said the company had a lease of 5 Herbert Place but all surgical treatments had been carried out in St Francis Private Hospital, Mullingar, Co Westmeath, which had been paid a fee for each procedure.  While the cosmetic surgery sector in Ireland was not regulated the plastic surgeons engaged by the company were registered with the Irish Medical Council.

Guillot said about 1,500 operations had been performed since 1999 by The Harley Medical Centre Limited which was also owned by Praxis Trustees Limited.

The activities of the company had peaked in 2008 when it had a turnover of €4,294,560 and made a profit of €1 million.  As a company operating a branch in Ireland it had to file an annual report and accounts in the Companies Registration Office.

He stated the company had been hit by the economic downturn and had not been profitable since 2010 and made a loss of  €83,635 in 2011 and €302,000 last year.  By January of this year liabilities exceeded assets by €560,435.

He alleged that the French manufacturer, Poly Implant Prothese, had altered the manufacturing process without communicating the change to relevant authorities and, in particular, had begun using a different silicone gel in its products.

Irish Independent

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