Case details

Collision caused infections at breast implant site: plaintiff





Result type

Not present

back, breast implant, chest, damage, left breast, neck
On Dec. 30, 2010, at approximately 2:40 p.m., plaintiff Anita Clement, a 47-year-old unemployed woman, was driving on southbound Nueva Vista Drive in Laguna Niguel when she attempted a left turn onto eastbound Crown Valley Parkway and was broadsided by a vehicle operated by Andy Philippsen, who was traveling on westbound Crown Valley Parkway. Clement claimed to her neck, back, and left breast. Clement sued Philippsen and Dry Force Inc., which was Philippsen’s employer and owner of his vehicle. Clement alleged that Philippsen was negligent in the operation of his vehicle and that Dry Force was vicariously liable for Philippsen’s actions through the course and scope of his work. Clement claimed that Philippsen ran a red light at the subject intersection, causing the broadside collision. She also claimed that Philippsen admitted to police at the scene that as he entered the intersection, he was looking at his directions and did not see there was a red light. Dry Force admitted that Philippsen was in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident and that Philippsen was the sole cause of the accident, which Philippsen agreed to. Thus, the case proceeded in litigation on the issues of causation and damages., Due to the force of the impact, Clement was initially knocked unconscious. It was later discovered that impact damaged her left breast implant, causing complications. Clement is a breast cancer survivor who had undergone a double mastectomy with breast reconstruction in mid-2010. On Sept. 14, 2010, three months before the subject accident, she underwent a second stage bilateral breast reconstruction, which involved the placement of permanent breast implants and was the final stage in her reconstruction process. Over those next three months before the subject accident, Clement claimed she healed with no complications or infections, and that the incisional sites at both breasts had completely healed by the time of the accident. Following the crash, it was ultimately discovered that the incision site of Clement’s left breast had dehisced, allowing the implant to protrude through the opening and become exposed for more than 24 hours before it could be addressed. She subsequently underwent emergency repair surgery to replace the exposed implant with a brand new implant the following morning. Despite a successful procedure, Clement’s surgeon warned her that the exposure of the breast as a result of the dehiscence placed her at a greater risk of infection and poor healing. Three days later, Clement developed a left breast infection that was treated with IV antibiotics. After several weeks, the infection appeared to clear and remained asymptomatic for the next four months. As a result, in April 2011, Clement underwent an elective nipple graft procedure, but it failed and resulted in a superficial infection at the left nipple graft site. Clement claimed that after the infection cleared with oral antibiotics over several days, she went to Mexico several days later to visit family. However, while in Mexico, she developed a total left breast infection, which later cleared with antibiotics when she returned home. Over the next four months, Clement experienced repeated total left breast infections that would appear to clear with IV antibiotics and then return again after several weeks. Ultimately, it was determined that Clement’s left breast implant had become a sanctuary site for bacteria, causing the infections, and that the left breast implant had to be removed. As a result, Clement underwent a left breast explantation on Sept. 23, 2011, and due to anaphylactic complications during the procedure, she had to live the next year of her life without a left breast implant. During that year, she experienced no further infections, which she claimed confirmed that the implant had been the sanctuary site. After 13 months, Clement underwent a new left breast reconstruction surgery — again in two stages on Oct. 3, 2012, and March 20, 2013. After completing the final stage of the reconstructive surgery on March 20, 2013, Clement’s left breast implant dropped approximately two inches due to the multiple surgeries and atrophy to the breast tissue at that location. Accordingly, she had to then undergo another reconstruction surgery to reinforce the left breast implant and surrounding tissue, which occurred on Dec. 23, 2013. This final surgery resolved the dropping left breast and all the complications Clement had endured after five surgeries and three years of complications. The plaintiffs’ retained infectious disease expert and treating plastic surgeon both opined that the initial infection after the automobile accident most likely created a biofilm around the implant, which then remained dormant for the next four to five months until it re-emerged while Clement was in Mexico. They opined that this explained how the infections could remain dormant for months at a time and then suddenly become symptomatic. Based on these opinions, Clement contended that the defendants were responsible for all of the complications she experienced in the three years after the subject accident. Thus, Clement sought recovery of approximately $162,000 in past medical costs (Hanif lien amount), and recovery of damages for her pain and suffering. Her husband, James Clement, presented a derivative claim, seeking recovery of damages for his loss of consortium. The defense’s retained plastic surgery expert opined that all of the complications after the nipple graft procedure resulted from the superficial infection — suffered during the April 2012 trip to Mexico — that occurred after the said procedure. The expert opined the superficial nipple graft infection had likely traveled down a suture line into the left breast and was therefore the most likely cause of the subsequent left breast infections. Accordingly, defense counsel contended that the collision was not the cause of the persistent infections, the removal of the left breast implant, or any of the complications in the subsequent surgeries. Thus, defense counsel contended that the collision only caused the need for the initial surgery the day after the accident and the initial subsequent recovery.
Superior Court of Orange County, Santa Ana, CA

Recommended Experts


Get a FREE consultation for your case