Insurance issue puts implant lawsuits in doubt
A COSMETIC surgery firm being sued by 158 Irish women who fear their breast implants could rupture says it is not insured for the use of industrial grade silicone in the implants it used.
Harley Medical Group (Ireland), which has petitioned the High Court to wind up the company, says it has been told by its insurers that its cover does not extend to liability claims for products – including the controversial PIP implants – sourced from a third party.
The company has also said that although it had prepared for a rupture rate of 3pc after the implant scandal broke, the actual rate for patients with PIP implants is now more than 8pc.
In court papers, Pierre Guillot, a director of the British Virgin Islands-registered company, said its potential debts could soar by "several million euro" as a result of the insurance issue. The revelation has thrown hundreds of legal actions by Irish women into doubt.
Some 1,500 women received cosmetic surgery at private Irish clinics using implants containing industrial silicon gel – more commonly found in mattresses – from French company Poly Implant Prothese (PIP). PIP, which is the subject of a criminal investigation, is also in liquidation.
In all, Harley used PIP implants in some 1,100 operations out of the 1,500 total.
The cosmetic surgery sector is not regulated in Ireland, but companies earned huge profits during the boom.
Harley had a turnover of €3.8m in 2007, producing profits of €726,000, but this dropped to €1.45m turnover and €86,635 profits in 2011.
In a statement, the company said that Harley Medical Group Ireland had been lossmaking for some time and this could no longer be sustained.
"Regrettably, having considered options for the company in consultation with the shareholder, the directors have concluded that there is no viable alternative but to wind up the business."