Jean-Claude Mas, a former traveling salesman and founder of a French company that made tens of thousands of bad breast implants, already faces trial in his native land.
Now he has a $19.8 million judgment from Miami-Dade Circuit Court to contend with. A jury awarded about $7.8 million in compensatory damages and interest, plus $12 million in punitive damages, to Steven Kwartin, a Hollywood, Fla., tax lawyer, and other members of his family.
A judge had already found Mas lied and schemed to take a Florida distribution company away from Kwartin, cheat him and his relatives of their investment, and cover Mas' own tracks, in part to avoid paying corporate and personal taxes in France and the U.S.
The 14-year litigation over Kwartin's employment contract imploded in July when Circuit Judge Gill S. Freeman struck Mas' pleadings, threatened him with a contempt finding and sent the case to trial on damages only. Circuit Judge John W. Thornton Jr. presided over the trial that ended January 29 with the verdicts.
Freeman wrote in her July 9 order, "Mas' perjuries, prevarications, multiple submissions of fraudulently contrived documents and obstructionist tactics ... evidence his contempt for the authority and dignity of this court and his ongoing disregard of the sanctity of the oath of a witness in proceedings before this court."
Mas and co-defendant Donald McGhan backdated documents to avoid an injunction Kwartin obtained to protect his employment contract, said plaintiffs attorney Arthur Tifford of Tifford and Tifford in Miami. McGhan, who worked in the Dow Corning lab that produced the first breast implant in 1963, is widely regarded as a pioneer in the field.
"They got caught, and then they lied and fabricated, and the more they tried the worse they made it for themselves," Tifford said.
He said Mas was represented by a series of counsel, most recently Fort Lauderdale attorney Christopher Leigh. He could not be reached for comment by deadline. McGhan is serving a 10-year prison term in Texas for wire fraud after diverting real estate investments into another implant business. Both men are in their 70s.
According to Freeman's order, a friend of Kwartin's was partners with Mas in P.I.P./USA, a Florida corporation set up to distribute saline-filled breast implants manufactured by Poly Implant Prostheses S.A., Mas' French company. In 1996, the Food and Drug Administration approved the implants for marketing and sale in the U.S., finding them similar to other products in the American market.
It was later revealed that Mas used industrial-grade silicone, instead of the more expensive surgical-grade product, and the implants had a tendency to break and leak silicone into the body. The company was closed by French authorities in 2010 and liquidated, but not before selling tens of thousands of implants in Brazil, Britain, France, Venezuela and other countries.