Thousands of victims of the Pip breast implant scandal, including 540 British women, will receive compensation after a Paris appeals court ruling.
The case in Paris was brought by 2,700 women who said they had suffered long-term health effects after receiving implants manufactured by a French firm which were filled with cheap, industrial-grade silicone not cleared for human use.
The court also upheld a ruling on Thursday that the German firm TÜV Rheinland, which certified that the implants were safe, was negligent.
The Pip Implant World Victims Association (Pipa) said it was seeking damages amounting to tens of thousands of euros for each victim, but when and how much compensation would be given was yet to be determined, with a first ruling expected in September.
One British victim of the scandal – whose breast implants ruptured – called the court decision “a victory, it’s amazing”.
Nicola Mason told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme she first discovered the rupture after noticing a large lump under her arm, saying it was “quite traumatic and there was absolutely nothing I could do”.
The implants were removed but she has been left with a large lump of silicone under her arm, she said, adding: “I don’t think anyone knows the long-term effects.”
Jan Spivey was given Pip implants after she had a mastectomy because of breast cancer. She told the BBC she was “elated and exhausted” after hearing the decision.
“It’s been a very long journey,” she said. “We’ve been in and out of court, and that’s been really difficult for women. We’ve got health issues and we’ve got lots of other responsibilities too – Pip has had an impact on the whole of our lives.”
Olivier Aumaître, the lawyer who represented the women, said: “We are delighted with this outcome which definitively puts an end to the doubts about TÜV’s responsibility.
“After 10 years of waiting and fierce combat, the German certifier will have to fully compensate the victims.”
The ruling could have implications for tens of thousands more victims across the world. It is estimated up to 400,000 women have received the implants which used an illegal, untested, homemade concoction of industrial-grade and agricultural silicone instead of medical silicone approved for humans.
Latin America was worst hit, in particular Colombia, where there are estimated to be 60,000 victims. In the UK it is thought 47,000 women have been affected, just under 900 on the NHS, mostly for post-cancer breast reconstruction.
The substandard implants were made by the French company Poly Implant Prothèse, or Pip, between 2001 and 2010, when it was liquidated. The firm, at one time the third-biggest global supplier of breast implants, had been cutting costs for 10 years. Its founder Jean-Claude Mas was jailed for four years in 2013 by a court in Marseille.
In 2012 a UK report into the long-term effects of the Pip implants found they were significantly more likely to rupture or leak silicone than other implants. The group’s final report said that after 10 years, Pip implants had a 15% to 30% chance of rupturing. Other breast implant brands had a 10% to 14% rupture rate in the same timeframe.
A year later the European commission’s Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) concluded there was no evidence that women who have Pip breast implants are at higher risk of cancer.