NOBEL BIOCARE
From  medical science to dangerous marketing ?
Trial of TGI in Paris on 12 January 2009 : A confirmation ?


The ruling dated 5th February 2007 in the case of the Drs. Bert and Leclercq against the firm Nobel Biocare– analysed on this site- stated not only that Nobel Biocare had refused to admit that certain products distributed by its branch Stéri-Oss might have displayed some imperfections, which might have been quite simple for the American-Swiss company given that these failings had occurred before that company had been bought up, but also that it was bearing an edifying witness on how the industrialist felt convinced of how well-founded his behaviour was and how much contempt he had for the practitioners and patients who might have fallen victims of those failings.

Within the wake of this decision taken in February 2007, and for which Nobel Biocare filed an appeal, a new ruling has now been rendered by the regional Court in Paris (TGI – Tribunal de Grande Instance). This ruling concludes a case opened by a patient against one of the practitioner who had fitted her with the implants attacked by the previous ruling.

The Paris TGI decision has not encountered any opposition. On the basis of a new expert's report, it has indeed been observed that the incriminated practitioner had not committed any fault and had treated his patient with due diligence and care. Furthermore, the court had exonerated the practitioner of any liability in order to conclude that the failing had entirely been due to the impugned implants.

There again, rather than admitting that the company Steri-Oss, purchased by Nobel Biocare after these occurrences, might have overestimated the quality of their hydroxyapatite covered implant, the industrialist had chosen to remain convinced that no mistake had been made. Within the context of this case, Nobel Biocare even went as far as claiming that the practitioner had not used these well-known implants, such information being of course proven false by the experts.

Feeling with certainty that this argument might easily be refuted, Nobel Biocare also did try to cast doubt on the practitioner's competence by commissioning two consultant dentists for them to testify to the practitioner's failures and errors. Such allegations again have been set aside by the legal expert who observed that the practitioner had perfectly complied with professional rules, recalling also that Nobel Biocare's consulted dentists had not based their opinion on an examination of the patient.

The tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris has therefore issued a biting repudiation for the industrialist.

The court's decision is furthermore particularly clear as it confirms the liability of Nobel Biocare, condemning it to protect the practitioner against all rulings taken against him and to refund the sums spent by the latter to cover advances claimed. Nobel Biocare is also condemned to take over the experts' expenses and finally to compensate the practitioner for damages.

This ruling may lead to an appeal, and it can be foreseen that Nobel Biocare will take advantage of all the avenues open for appeal, however this is now the second time that French courts, and the experts they called upon, observe that negligence in the manufacture of implants has had some dangerous consequences for patients, thus re-iterating the reservations expressed during the Cochin conferences as early as 1996

See the TGI ruling (in french)