Court: Woman Entitled to One New Breast Implant, Not Two

A woman who said her breast implants were damaged in an on-the-job car accident should be compensated for the replacement of only one implant, state appellate judges ruled Tuesday.

The North Carolina Court of Appeals issued the decision in a workers' compensation claim filed by Penny M. Rumple Richardson, who said the 2001 accident caused rippling and a decrease in size of her implants.

The case was a first for the court, which had never considered whether damaged breast implants were covered by workers compensation, the judges wrote in their ruling.

Greensboro plastic surgeon Dr. David Bowers testified that Richardson's right implant had ruptured and the left implant showed signs of rippling, so he decided to replace both implants, according to the ruling. But he later testified that the left implant most likely had rippling because it was under-filled.

Judges Barbara Jackson and Sanford Steelman Jr. said Richardson be compensated only for the ruptured implant, but agreed that breast implants are covered in workers' compensation claims because they are a "prosthetic device that functions as part of the body."

The dissenting member of the three-judge panel, Judge James Wynn, Jr., said Richardson needed both replaced to ensure the implants were "symmetrical and evenly matched."

The case was sent back to the North Carolina Industrial Commission, which will determine the amount of compensation for replacing one implant and address other issues cited in the ruling.

The commission originally awarded Richardson compensation for both implants, but the insurance company and her employer appealed. Richardson was a nursing assistant at Maxim Healthcare/Allegis Group as the time of her accident.