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Vassallo v. Baxter Healthcare Corp.

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
696 N.E.2d 909 (Mass. 1998)


In February 1977, Florence Vassallo (plaintiff) underwent breast implantation surgery. She received silicone gel implants manufactured by Heyer-Schulte Corporation in 1976. Through a series of corporate transactions, Baxter Healthcare Corp. (Baxter Healthcare) and Baxter International, Inc. (Baxter International) (defendants) assumed responsibility for breast implant products manufactured by Heyer-Schulte. In 1992, Vassallo had a mammogram after complaining of severe chest pain. The mammogram revealed that her left breast implant had ruptured, and her right implant contained small holes through which silicone gel was leaking. Vassallo received permanent tissue scarring, chronic inflammation, and problems with her immune system due to the silicone gel leakage. She and her husband brought suit against Baxter Healthcare and Baxter International. She stated that had she known of the risks associated with gel leakage, she would not have had the procedure. Additionally, evidence was introduced at trial showing that Heyer-Schulte knew of the risks associated with leakage of implants at the time they were received by Vassallo, and did not inform her of these risks. The jury found the defendants had actual or constructive knowledge of the risks of breast implants at the time they were given to Vassallo, and also found the defendants liable for negligence. Baxter Healthcare and Baxter International appealed.

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