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Mum-of-three to sue “hopelessly insolvent" clinic over breast implants

A Co Meath victim of silicon gel breast implants has been told by a judge she can issue fresh claims for damages against The Harley Medical Group (Ireland) Limited, already described in High Court proceedings as “hopelessly insolvent.”

Judge Jacqueline Linnane ruled in the Circuit Civil Court that mother-of-three Susan Newman, of Duffsland, Commons Road, Navan, could serve new claims on the company at its British Virgin Islands registered headquarters. 

Barrister Robert McGarr said damages claims had already been served on The Harley Medical Group (Ireland) Limited at its clinic at 5 Herbert Place, Dublin, but this had turned out to be merely a branch of the Caribbean-based company.

Judge Linnane adjourned an application by Sarah Reid, counsel for another victim, Samantha Gibbs, of Hillside, Ballintubber, Castlerea, Co Roscommon, for leave to prepare new proceedings against the cosmetic surgery company.

Ms Reid said an application was due to be made in adjourned High Court proceedings next Monday by The Harley Medical Group (Ireland)  Limited which is seeking an order winding up the company.  Ms Justice Mary Laffoy, who will hear the application, has already heard the company is “hopelessly insolvent.”

Six years ago hundreds of Irish women who had PIP implants inserted in their breasts learned that they could rupture and leak toxic industrial grade silicone into their bodies.

Mary Mullarkey, solicitor for Ms Gibbs, told the court that there had been confusion over what entity was what.

Harley Medical Group (Ireland) Limited had an address as PO Box 3321, Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands, while Harley Medical Group (Ireland) Limited, with an address at 5 Herbert Place, Dublin 2, was just an external branch of the Virgin Islands entity.  A UK company, Harley Medical Centre Limited, had an address at 11 Queen Anne Street, London.

Pierre Guillot, a director of the company seeking a winding up order next Monday, 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.

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 surgical procedure.

He said the cosmetic surgery sector in Ireland was not regulated but the plastic surgeons engaged by the company were registered with the Irish Medical Council.

Mr Guillot said about 1,500 operations for breast implants had been performed since 1999 by The Harley Medical Centre Limited (THMCL)  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 €l million.  As a company operating a branch in Ireland it had to file an annual report and accounts in the Companies Registration Office.

It had been hit by the economic downturn and had not been profitable since 2010 and made a loss of €83,635 in 2011and €302,000 last year.  By January 2013 liabilities exceeded assets by €560,435.

He said the French manufacturer of the PIP implants altered the manufacturing process without communicating the change to relevant authorities and, in particular, began using a different silicone gel in its products.

European health authorities had not  discovered the change until March 2010 by which time the altered implants had been used in 1,100 operations in Ireland.

Mr Guillot said it now appeared there was an actual rupture rate for patients with PIP implants of over eight per cent.  The company ceased advertising in June 2012 and ceased to trade in December last year.  It had been notified of claims from 158 patients in Ireland.

He said the company’s insurers had told it that cover did not extend to product liability claims for products sourced from a third party and claims could potentially increase the company’s liability by several million euro.

Last February Praxis Trustees resolved that the company should be wound up in the Irish High Court on the basis it had traded exclusively in Ireland.

His affidavit, prepared for next Monday’s High Court proceedings, was attached as an exhibit to documents filed in yesterday’s application in the Circuit Civil Court.

Online Editors