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August update on PIP litigation

Good day, Bon Jour and Ddiwrnod da

This month we are stocktaking and also looking at our neighbours in France and Wales to see what developments there are in those two countries. Wales because this is the UK country that decided to remove and replace PIP implants on the NHS and France because of the source of the defective implants.

I will also cover the usual topics of the group litigation, insurance, etc…

NHS Wales – so near yet so far

As long ago as March 2012 the BBC published an investigation into why the NHS in Wales decided that their duty to the women in Wales with PIP implants was greater than their English, Scottish and Irish counterparts.

“The Welsh government has offered to pay to remove and replace banned PIP breast implants for those treated privately, while in England the NHS will remove but not replace them.”

Welsh Health Minister Lesley Griffiths said: “Health is a devolved matter, and my response to the PIP issue has been based entirely on what is best for women in Wales needing help from the health service in Wales… The Welsh government position on PIP implants has been clear and consistent, and is aimed at helping all women in Wales who are assessed by a doctor as needing treatment.”

It was estimated at that time the there were only about 1000 women in Wales who had the implants and the reason was suggested by Sally Taber from the Independent Healthcare Advisory Service, which represents private cosmetic clinics….”No independent hospital in Wales implanted a PIP implant. They didn’t use them.”

To qualify for NHS treatment in Wales, including replacement implants, patients need to show they have the PIP implants, that they live in Wales, have a GP in Wales and that their private clinic has refused to support them.

So was the reason for the Welsh NHS generosity towards PIP victims simply due to the low numbers anticipated.  If Wales had had 20,000 victims would their response have been the same. The disparity between 1000 in Wales and 47,000 in the rest of the UK seems to tip the balance in favour of this observation.

It is important to remember that there were vast differences in the management of cosmetic surgery not only between Britain and the rest of the western world (PIP were also not used in the USA) but also with close neighbours in Wales.  What was it about the Welsh private clinics that discouraged the use of PIP when these were the implant of choice in England. These questions need to be answered.

Allianz – PIP insurers

Many of you have kindly sent letters to Allianz and the Association of British Insurers.  Allianz UK reply has been to say that this is exclusively a French issue and Allianz France disputes liability even though there is now a Court Order demanding they compensate their French citizens.

Very often and more so recently we hear in the news about the terrible time that insurers are having due to the escalation of personal injury claims and the resultant increase in premiums.  This is of course nonsense as insurers this year as in all previous years are reaping huge profits and no indication at all of any reduction in premiums.

My attention is on Allianz and the announcement of their finances so far in 2012.

Allianz is a global insurer and one of the top five in the world. The headquarters are in Germany which is the parent company and it operates in subsidiaries in countries with local sub companies referred to as Allianz UK, Allianz France, etc…..  On 3 August 2012 details of the profits were published by Bloombergs and copied below are the relevant extracts:

“Allianz Profit Beats Estimates on Life, Health Unit

Allianz SE (ALV) and Axa SA, Europe’s biggest insurers, reported profit that beat analysts’ estimates, helped by higher earnings at their life and health businesses.

Net income at Munich-based Allianz rose 23 percent to 1.23 billion euros ($1.5 billion) in the second quarter, beating the 1.15 billion-euro average estimate of 13 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Allianz Chief Executive Officer Michael Diekmann said, “Our operative business is stable and remains on course.”

Allianz’s life- and health-insurance division saw net income more than double to 506 million euros, helped by reduced impairments and gains from selling assets. Operating profit at the unit rose 21 percent to 821 million euros.

Net investment income advanced to 5.66 billion euros in the quarter from 4.52 billion euros a year ago, helped by currency gains, the company said in a presentation on its website. Allianz wrote down its Greek debt holdings by 326 million euros in the year-earlier period.”

 

How lovely it must be for Allianz to hold so much wealth and their shareholders must be very pleased, but is their response to the victims of the defective PIP implants the actions of a responsible company with moral integrity  or is this simply another corporate giant who considers itself above the law (in France) and with no obligation whatsoever to those who relied on the cover they provided for the PIP products.  Furthermore why does the Association of British Insurers state that they have no influence whatsoever on the conduct of their membership.

Group litigation

At the end of July 2012 I received an update on the progress of the Group Litigation or should I say the lack of progress.  There has been no further hearing before the Court as anticipated in June or July and nothing is now likely until October.  This means that there are still no directions from the Court or timelines to comply with.  It also means that the litigation process will be lengthy as we imagined at the outset. Court proceedings can sometimes be misleading because they usually follow a period of communication between the claimant and defendant when issues were discussed and disputes negotiated. Court proceedings are a last resort.

The issue of PIP is slightly back to front where proceedings have been issued before many of the claims were ever presented and this combined with the number of potential defendants and claimants has left the Court with a great deal of work to be done that would have normally been done well before proceedings.  Litigation also very often prolongs disputes because there are many opportunities for parties to delay what would be a strict timetable. These delays can extend the process by many months and sometimes years.  So although court proceedings seem to be correct perhaps the timing could have been better.

The present position is the same as it was in June and July and will continue through September.  For our purposes it is the difficulty in obtaining insurance for legal expenses that is applying the brakes on our claims.  There are a very limited number of insurers willing to assist with cover for victims of the PIP scandal.  The insurers are paying careful attention to any developments with regard to the court proceedings and the longer it is for the Court to set down directions the longer it is taking to obtain insurance.  The insurers are waiting for something affirmative from the Court to allow them to assess the risk of these claims but the Court is not in any hurry.  I assure you that we are continuing in our efforts to obtain insurance particularly after the assurance we were given in July that policies would be set up.  This is an issue for all firms representing PIP victims and not a unique problem for our clients.

Media

Just when we thought the media was losing interest there has been another flurry of activity. We have been in the papers and on the radio and the Government has agreed for a further report to be provided to investigate the Cosmetic Surgery industry and its apparent total lack of regulations.   MPs are still on their summer recess and if you have not sent a letter to your MP to ask for assistance with PIP please do so. There are potentially 47,000 women whose plight will not be ignored.

In summary

The summer is drawing to a close and from September the Courts and the Government will be returning to a full work load.  There is still much to be done with regard to your claims and litigation.  I am pleased that these emails are helpful to you and hope that next month there will be more in the way of practical concrete actions to report.