Philips said on Friday that it faces lawsuits in France related to the company’s ongoing recall of sleep apnea devices and ventilators.
“In relation to the affected devices, Philips Respironics is a defendant in several lawsuits and claims, including in France. Litigation is in preliminary stages, so it is too early to draw any conclusions on the merits of any claims or to speculate about any potential exposure,” Philips spokesperson Steve Klink wrote in an email.
French-language news channel Franceinfo reported on Thursday that the Paris public prosecutor’s office had opened a preliminary investigation into Philips’ recall.
Christophe Lèguevaques, a French attorney who told Franceinfo that he represents more than 1,400 people affected by the respirator problems, called the opening of the French police probe “good news” for his clients.
“We will be able to move forward, to finally have verified information,” he said in an interview with Franceinfo. So far, he has had to rely on reports from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Now, he said, “we will be able to know what is happening in France.”
Lèguevaques said what Philips knew and when it knew it are the keys to a civil lawsuit he now intends to file in France.
“What is important is to know how long Philips has known about the dangerousness of these products,” he told Franceinfo. “It seems that it is since 2015, which means that since 2015, for economic and industrial reasons Philips has endangered the lives of patients.”
In total, 3,600 reports have been made to France’s ANSM, the agency that oversees medication safety and health products. In the interview, Lèguevaques noted that only a third of the affected devices had been replaced.
Klink said in an email that the company is working to repair or replace the affected products as quickly as possible, and is collaborating with independent testing laboratories in the U.S. and Europe to assess the potential health risks of the PE-PUR sound abatement foam used in the devices.