High court orders trial in breast implant case
December 2, 2004
The Nevada Supreme Court on Thursday reversed a lower court judge and revived a lawsuit filed by silicone breast implant survivor Glenda Wilson of Las Vegas.
Wilson, a widowed great-grandmother suffering from systemic silicone disease, sued Heyer-Schulte Corp., American Hospital Supply Corp., Baxter Healthcare Corp. and Baxter International Inc. but the case was dismissed because it didn’t come to trial within five years.
Wilson was one of several women who filed a January 1997 complaint seeking damages as a result of leaking breast implants. But in August 1997 a judge ordered that the cases be refiled separately and Wilson followed up with a supplement to the original complaint a month later.
In November 2001, Wilson requested and got a May 2002 trial date. The first day of the trial was more than five years after the original complaint was filed – but less than five years after the refilings.
The Baxter lawyers moved to dismiss the case because of the time that had passed since the initial complaint, and District Judge Norm Robison granted the motion. But the Supreme Court said the judge erred and should have allowed the trial to start.
Wilson and about 65 women who had silicone breast injections or implants starting in the early 1960s lost in an effort to get Nevada lawmakers in 2001 to pass an emergency measure that would ensure they can sue implant manufacturers.
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The women told legislators their personal stories of illnesses that resulted from ruptured silicone gel implants or injected silicone liquid that poisoned their bodies.
But the measure bogged down, facing strong opposition from a three-member Dow Corning lobbying team, as well as the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce and Nevada Retail Association. A similar effort in 2003 also failed.
The opponents argued that Nevada’s statutes of limitation block the lawsuits, and those statutes are important because they ensure defendants can properly defend themselves before evidence is lost, memories have faded or witnesses have disappeared.