On 26 June 1988, an Air France Airbus A320 on a demonstration flight with 75 passengers aboard crashed into a forest at the end of the runway at a small airport in Habsheim, Alsace, killing three people. The Airbus A320 was the first aircraft to be equipped with electric controls and be designed to be flown by two people. These technical innovations aroused the hostility of pilots who considered they were no longer in command of the aircraft and went on strike against two-person piloting. Following the examination of the flight recorders, the conclusions of the French flight safety authority, the BEA (Bureau d’Enquête Accidents, which later became the Bureau d’Enquête et d’Analyses), ruled out an aircraft fault as a possible cause of the accident. The crash was due to pilot error, as he had not noticed an 11-metre-high forest at the end of the runway before the flight, had descended to 10 metres from the ground and despite accelerating, could not avoid the crash. However, the results of the initial analyses leaked out and because, as is always the case at this stage, not all of the instruments had been calibrated and adjusted, the results were inconsistent.
The Minister of Transport, who immediately arrived on the scene, stated even before the BEA investigation that the accident was due to pilot error. The State Prosecutor handed over the flight recorders to the French civil aviation authority (DGAC), which gave them to the BEA after transporting them in a DGAC aircraft. The conditions were ripe for a controversy: a pilot, supported by the investigating judge, accused the BEA of having tampered with the flight recorders in order to accuse the crew rather than the aircraft’s airworthiness and so save the “Franco-German military industrial trust”. The BEA, supported by the DGAC, was forced to file a lawsuit for defamation which was won before the Court of First Instance, the Court of Appeal and the Court of Cassation. The pilot’s lawyer, who repeated in public the accusations made in court, was also convicted for defamation.
The DGAC was never legally implicated in this accident. However, the pilot was sentenced to prison by the Colmar court and the demonstration flight’s organisers were accused of organising an aircraft meeting in breach of safety regulations. The pilot, supported by the victims, continued to challenge the aircraft’s airworthiness until the end. This is a historic case from a technical, human and legal point of view. Not only was it the first time that an Airbus crashed during its commissioning, it was also the first time that the BEA appeared in the media and on the legal scene. And lastly, the administration, the BEA and the defence were led to file a defamation suit against the pilot.
This case was the starting point of often conflicting relations between the administrative authority, the BEA and the judicial authority, which consequently often considered the BEA as a competing authority lacking impartiality. It has been criticised by the judicial authority and the pilots in all cases, including that of the Concorde crash. This has reached a point where the inanity of the legal appraisal appeared at every public hearing, showing the stupidity of this rivalry.
Like the British AAIB, the German BPU, the Russian MAK and the American NTSB, the BEA is one of the most highly respected and sought-after air accident investigation bodies in the world when an accident occurs.
For more than 35 years, legal proceedings against the French civil aviation authority agents defended by SLA have become systematic after each accident, and have almost always resulted in dismissals or acquittals.
On 25 July 2000, a Concorde with 113 passengers and crew on board crashed into a hotel in Gonesse while taking off, killing everyone on board and four people in the hotel. The director of the DGAC’s aeronautical training and technical control service (SFACT), who was acquitted in the Air Inter Flight 148 crash case, the programme’s technical director (EADS), the Continental airline, its manager, a worker and a foreman were all prosecuted for manslaughter.
The BEA very quickly identified the cause of the accident: a Concorde tyre had burst, probably because it had run over a metal part, and a large piece of rubber had ricocheted against a tank, causing it to explode. The design and safety investigation office’s international work enabled the BEA to trace the aircraft that had taken off just before, a DC10 from the Continental airline. BEA agents, who had travelled to Texas with the agreement of Continental and the FAA, found that a titanium part was missing on a thrust reverser. This part, found twisted and almost upright on the runway, had caused the tyre to explode and thus the accident. The hole in the tank had caused a colossal fuel leak that immediately ignited, causing the loss of the engines of the aircraft, which crashed a minute and a half later.
Several parties were accused: the Concorde programme’s technical director, for failings in the aircraft design; the director of SFACT, for certifying the aircraft; Continental as a corporate entity, its director for company liability and the foreman for not supervising the work of the worker who failed to tighten the part that fell onto the runway. Continental and its staff were convicted and the director of SFACT and the Concorde programme director were acquitted before the Court. Following an appeal by the Public Prosecutor's Office, the Versailles Court of Appeal acquitted all parties in its ruling of 29 November 2012.
Finding that this case was not of a criminal nature, the Court ordered Continental to pay Air France a million euros in damages. The conduct of the other parties was judged non-criminal because neither the worker nor the foreman could imagine the consequences of failing to fix a part properly, meaning that the resulting damage could not be foreseen. Similarly, the director of SFACT, when certifying the aircraft as airworthy, did not behave in a way that could certainly result in the accident.
This Concorde ruling, which followed the Air Inter Flight 148 crash ruling, is highly important because it seems to mark the end of — or, at the very least, a pause in — systematic criminal prosecutions following aviation accidents.
Since the defendants have been acquitted in almost all cases, the defence lawyers SLA, who have represented the DGAC for 40 years, note that the era of systematic prosecutions seems to be over. Without excluding the possibility of civil liability, the remedy found in the case of Continental, the judges, have returned twice to the long-forgotten distinction between civil and criminal liability in highly mediatised accidents that even have political repercussions. This is significant for professionals and seems to indicate a trend confirmed by the investigating judge’s decision to dismiss the Rio-Paris accident case in September 2019. But more broadly, it is part of an effort to clarify the mixing of civil and criminal liability that has occurred for too long in French case law with the aim of protecting and providing relief for the victims.
The length of these proceedings involved (17 years for the Air Inter Flight 148 case and 12 years for the Concorde case) certainly also leads us to question the French practice of prosecution for manslaughter in too many cases.
Lastly, this case has highlighted the value of the BEA’s aeronautical analyses, which the courts have always accepted after strongly contesting them during the investigation. In the case of Concorde, the forensic reports highlighted the errors in the case and showed that it was useless to seek to challenge the BEA’s technical analyses at all costs.
The second Airbus crash occurred on the Bloss Plateau near Mont Sainte-Odile on 20 January 1992. Six people appeared in court for involuntary manslaughter and unintentional injury, including the technical director of Airbus and former director general of civil aviation and his director, the head of the aeronautical training and technical control service (SFACT) within the French civil aviation authority (DGAC), both of whom were defended by Soulez Larivière & Associés.
The question arose as to whether the crash was caused by an operating error due to the poor design by Airbus of a single button determining the angle or speed of descent, a pilot error in not using the manual approach and landing system (DME) correctly or the lack of a warning device, the GPWS (Ground Proximity Warning System), which the two DGAC officials defended by the firm were accused of not making mandatory in the entire fleet.
In defence of Airbus, our firm said that the pilots’ excessively rapid descent could not have been definitely caused by a poor button design. In the defence of the officials, it said that the GPWS, which was rejected by the pilots when it was introduced on the market, was not mandatory. The legal experts themselves agreed that this imperfect device could not have definitely prevented the accident. With the assistance of Prof. Guy Carcassonne, the defence argued that under constitutional rules, the court of law was not competent to judge a failure to introduce regulations. The State officials could therefore not be prosecuted on this ground.
Because there was no criminal offence, the court did not impose any sentence except a civil one against Airbus “because of the button”. As it could not settle the preliminary question of whether the aircraft’s descent was intentional or unintentional, the Colmar Court of Appeal, reversing the judgment convicting Airbus on civil grounds, overturned the decision on 14 March 2008. The appeal before the Court of Cassation was rejected in September 2009.
The BEA judged that it was impossible to know whether or not the descent was intentional. However, as a precautionary measure, it recommended that two different buttons be created, one for the flight angle and the other for the descent rate. The NTSB did not apply this recommendation to the Airbuses of any American airlines, as it was considered an unnecessary precaution.
17 years elapsed between the accident and the decision of the Court of Cassation. This excessively long time led the victims to sue the State, and they lost the case: their obstinacy in seeking supporting expert opinions saying that the State, Airbus and the airline were liable was a major factor in the proceedings dragging on indefinitely.
This case has further highlighted the difficulties that can result from the thirst for conviction shown by certain civil parties. The President of the Colmar Court of Appeal, when questioning the psychologists explaining the trauma of the victims on their behalf, said the historic words, "Are the experts telling us that if the Court finds the defendants not guilty, this will be an added trauma for the victims?"
The Contaminated Blood affair was a healthcare, political and financial scandal that followed the HIV infection of patients receiving blood transfusions. This dramatic affair was a frequent subject of public discussion in France in the ’80s and ’90s and led to criminal proceedings — which was rarely the case elsewhere.
The criminal case consisted of three elements. The first concerned the director of the national blood transfusion centre, who was sentenced in 1992 to four years’ imprisonment. The second element involved policy. And the third was about those who escaped initial prosecution. Soulez Larivière & Associés defended the doctor who invented the technique of heating the blood to destroy the virus, who was accused of not announcing his discovery early enough. This third element of the case ended on 4 July 2002 with a general dismissal subsequently confirmed by the Court of Cassation. The case, which began in 1982 with the first victims of the virus, finally ended 20 years later.
The Contaminated Blood affair caused a political and constitutional issue as, prior to the 1993 reform, the Constitution barely allowed ministers to be tried. Ministers, including the Prime Minister Laurent Fabius, were harassed by the opposition and constantly accused of mismanagement, improvidence and, ultimately, manslaughter. Ending the crisis required a judicial decision resulting in either a conviction that would obviously have put an end to the careers of all the ministers concerned or an acquittal that would ultimately close the case and put an end to the charges. As a result, the French President, François Mitterrand, decided to reform the Constitution in order to create a Law Court competent to judge ministers, and to update the 1958 text, which had aged in certain respects. In 1992-93, the Vedel Commission , to which Daniel Soulez Larivière was appointed, was asked to find a constitutional solution allowing ministers to be judged. The Commission did this by creating a special court, the “Cour de Justice de la République” [Law Court of the Republic], with sitting Members of Parliament as a form of jury of political professionals.
Asked to judge the Contaminated Blood case in 1999, the Law Court of the Republic acquitted Laurent Fabius, the Prime Minister at that time, and the former Minister for Social Affairs and Solidarity, Georgina Dufoix, while Edmond Hervé, the former Minister for Health, was found guilty but not punished.
Due not only to the design of this Court, which was sitting for the first time, but also to its disastrous implementation, the Contaminated Blood case was a fiasco that caused Dean Vedel to say that “he had got his fingers burnt but he was not alone” — an opinion shared by Maître Soulez Larivière and Olivier Duhamel. The Law Court of the Republic will probably soon be abolished, as this occasion showed that mixing justice with politics does not really work. This is why, ten years later, the Avril Commission, which was intended to create a new criminal law status for the French President, set up a provisional watertight wall between him and the courts in order to completely separate the judiciary from politics, a solution put forward by Guy Carcassonne and Daniel Soulez Larivière at the same time.
Only one thing can be learned from this case: when passion and emotion mix with legal matters and the judiciary, the results are not good.
(1)The commission was composed, inter alia, of the following senior lawyers: Guy Braibant, section President of the Council of State; Olivier Duhamel, Professor of Constitutional Law; Louis Favoreux, constitutionalist and dean of the Law faculty of Aix-en-Provence; Dean François Luchaire, Professor emeritus and former President of the University of Paris; Claude Colliard Professor of Constitutional Law and former member of the Cabinet of the President of the Republic; Pierre Drai, First President of the Court of Cassation; Marceau Long, Vice-President of the Council of State; Alain Lancelot, Director of the Institute of Political Studies; Mireille Delmas-Marty, author of the report bearing her name and Professor of Law; and Daniel Soulez Larivière (DSL).
These two cases are landmarks in the Soulez Larivière Avocats firm’s history. After qualifying in 1965 and being elected as second secretary of the Bar Association Conference in 1968, Daniel Soulez Larivière was appointed by the President of the Paris Bar in 1969 to defend Eugène Rousseau, a 63-year-old French intelligence service (SDECE) agent accused of “intelligence with the agents of a foreign power”.
Under the classic cover of being a military attaché in Belgrade, this widower had obtained the service’s unwise approval to take his 16-year-old daughter, who had been assigned secretarial duties at the French Embassy. The Yugoslav secret service had her seduced by an agent and filmed her abortion, and then blackmailed her into handing over the embassy’s codes and everything that came into her possession during her work.
At the end of the ’60s, a Yugoslav secret service defector to the United States accused Rousseau himself of treason during his debriefings by the CIA. When the SDECE was informed, it thought that as a result of this blackmail he had become a spy for the East. After being unofficially held for ten days by the SDECE and 11 days by the National Surveillance Directorate (DST), Rousseau confessed to what his accusers wanted, even though these “confessions” were completely implausible.
The military observers later understood that he had been the victim of the settling of scores within the SDECE, whose director of research was himself suspected of leaking information to communist countries.
After being judged by the State Security Court, which examined all espionage cases at the time, the case was referred to the Court presided over by President Romerio, supervised by two senior officers. On 20 April 1970, Eugène Rousseau was sentenced behind closed doors (which was unprecedented) to 15 years’ imprisonment.
This was the first case of the firm’s founder Daniel Soulez Larivière in which he felt compelled to remedy the miscarriage of justice, otherwise he would have to resign from the Bar Association. He asked Gilles Perrault, a World War II and espionage specialist and author of the book L’Orchestre Rouge (Fayard, 1962), to write an article, which in reality became a book written in six months: L’Erreur (Fayard, 1971). Thanks to Gilles Perrault, a support committee composed of great Gaullist resistance fighters wrote in June to Georges Pompidou to demand a pardon. In July 1971, the Minister of Justice René Pleven informed Daniel Soulez Larivière that the French President had agreed and his client would be returned to him on 23 December that year. The director of the prison himself escorted him to his lawyer, who was waiting for him on the market square in Melun.
While taking Eugène Rousseau home, Gilles Perrault asked Daniel Soulez Larivière to help him with the Trepper case, which is why these two cases are inseparable in the firm’s birth.
Leopold Trepper, the former leader of the Red Orchestra (the Soviet spy network covering all of Western Europe during World War II), escaped from the hands of the Gestapo in 1943 and was then sentenced in Moscow to 10 years’ imprisonment like most people who served abroad under Stalin. Released on Stalin’s death and returned to Warsaw, he became president of the Jewish community in Poland. In 1969, however, a widespread anti-Semitic campaign in Poland forced Trepper’s entire family to emigrate although he was prevented from doing so, no doubt because the Poles and the Russian services were afraid that he would reveal certain episodes of the war under Stalin. He was visited twice by Daniel Soulez Larivière under incredible circumstances, was supported by the campaign organised with Gilles Perrault in France, Switzerland and England, and even in Brazil by Lula. The newspaper Le Monde then published an op-ed by Jean Rochet, the director of the National Surveillance Directorate (DST), who again repeated the old treason accusations made first by the Gestapo and then by certain anti-communist services active during that period of the Cold War. At the request of Léopold Trepper, a defamation writ was issued against the current director of the DST and the trial took place before the 17th Correctional Chamber in 1972. The director of the DST was dismissed from his post as director between two hearings and transferred to Nancy as Prefect. On 30 November 1972, Jean Rochet was convicted for failing to act in good faith when making his accusations, the Court judging that it was not possible to bring charges against Trepper without the testimony of all those in the Resistance and the Komintern who knew his true story: he had completely deceived the German forces by managing to warn Moscow both of his capture and of the objective of the Germans, who were trying to manipulate him after agreeing to the return of arrested members of the network. The German forces hoped to demobilise the Russians by making them believe in a separate Allied peace plan with Germany. Following the fall of the Wall, Patrick Rotman, who wrote Trepper’s memoirs, found confirmation in the archives of the Komintern that Trepper had indeed succeeded in the incredible feat of getting a message through to the Russian intelligence services via Jacques Duclos, head of the underground French Communist Party (PCF).
Fortunately, the Rousseau case was resolved and so Daniel Soulez Larivière did not leave the profession. Later in the course of events, at the age of 30 he found himself at the heart of state matters that turned to the advantage of the defence — although Jean Rochet was convicted by the 17th Chamber, he was then acquitted by an annulment for procedural reasons.
The Soulez Larivière Avocats law firm, which was founded in 1969, therefore began to build its reputation on two legal successes with political implications. This familiarity with secret service matters was perhaps one of the reasons why some smiled when the government appointed the firm to defend it in the Rainbow Warrior case twelve years later, with some calling it “"a wolf in the sheepfold.”
This was also, in turn, one of the reasons why this firm acted in the “Red Pullover” case. With his book “Pull-over rouge” which became a best-seller, Gilles Perrault launched the media defence of Christian Ranucci, who had been sentenced to death and executed in 1976. Daniel Soulez Larivière chaired the support committee for the review of his trial in which Jean-Denis Bredin had pleaded for the defence.
(2) From Colonel Passy and Colonel Remy to Romain Gary.
One of the first big corporate scandals involved the ARC, the French association for cancer research. This association was created in 1962 by a former INSERM executive, Jacques Crozemarie, and did little for a long time until he met the communicators Michel Simon and Pascal Sarda, who were advised by SLA in the legal case. The two succeeded in increasing the number of cash entries by a factor of ten thanks to numerous highly targeted mailshots achieving a return of about 3-4%, generating a very considerable funds. Subsequently, a report by the Court of Auditors in 1996 criticised the use of the money collected from the public in 1993.
The ARC funded hundreds of undoubtedly useful projects. The association, which was recognised as being of public utility, was supported by hundreds of medical specialists. However, its prosperity caused its downfall as well as that of its head and his communicators, as Jacques Crozemarie thought that he should be recompensed for his creation in the form of gifts, subsidies and benefits for his personal life (such as a swimming pool), which he asked for from his communicators. In June 2000, he received a final sentence for breach of trust and misuse of company assets, consisting of four years’ imprisonment, a fine of 2.5 million francs and 200 million francs in damages to be paid to the ARC. As one of his communicators had been killed in a car accident before the trial, the other was convicted for having been overpaid by the association, sometimes using legally questionable but economically viable tax methods.
This trial raised two main points, the first of which concerned the difficulty of “making money” in charity work while the association was built up by its creators and funded many indisputably useful projects. This was coupled with the symbolically “unacceptable” fact that only 27% of the funds collected were allocated to research while the rest paid operating expenses. Moreover, in France’s sociological consciousness, charity work should not make money for its creators. In the collective unconscious, it is inspired by devotion, charity and activism and must not bring any “benefits” from public donations. All the necessary legal tools were there for a criminal prosecution, given the French definition of breach of trust and misuse of company assets.
The second point is that this was one of the first mass trials in France. Under French law, all donors were entitled to file a civil action and claim damages for the “abuses” that had been committed regarding their donations.
A 500-seat room had to be created to hold the trial in the lobby of the Palais de Justice, then in the Ile de la Cité at the very heart of Paris. It was the first time that this had been done and there were many technical problems, particularly the layout with the defendants seated in the first two rows and the lawyers ten rows behind them. The organisational lessons learned were very useful in later hearings, such as in the Air Inter Flight 148 case (750 seats) and especially in the AZF factory explosion case (1,500 seats) and the PIP breast implant case (1,300 seats).
The large number of people bringing civil actions, a process that does not exist in other countries, explains why mass trials are handled in this way in France. At the International Criminal Court, in contrast, the debate takes place in a normal courtroom and is broadcast on video in rooms, with a delay of a few minutes to check that everything said is understandable.
All the protagonists in the ARC case have now died. Their successors as now some of the biggest agents in the association, which has continued to provide the same services as before but operating normally and using the same fundraising techniques.
On 21 September 2001, an explosion at the AZF factory in Toulouse killed 31 people and injured more than 2,500, the biggest industrial accident since the war. The factory belonged to the Total Group’s Grande Paroisse subsidiary. Given the scale of the problems to be resolved, on the civil level with compensation for the victims, on the administrative level and on the criminal judicial level, 10 partners or associates from three law firms intervened (DSL — leading counsel for the defence— and his team alongside Jacques Monferran and his team from the Monferran firm in Toulouse and Jean-Pierre Boivin and his team from the Boivin firm).
Processing of compensation claims
Prior to any criminal proceedings, the overriding priority in this case was the compensation of the victims, for which it was impossible to envisage judicial processing through the courts. On the initiative of both the defence and the President of the Court of First Instance, an alternative organisation was set up almost immediately to handle disputes, with a monitoring committee chaired by a magistrate, the future Director of Civil Affairs, and consisting of the public prosecutor and the lawyers of victim support associations. This was the first time in France that such an organisation had been set up.
A consensus rapidly emerged in the compensation process. The objective was for the company to pay as quickly and as much as possible. This resulted in an envelope of approximately 2.5 billion euros paid out first in the very first months and then as claims were made. Total had delegated one of its directors to settle any problems that arose on the spot. Monferran in Toulouse played a major role in ensuring the success of this compensation work.
On that occasion, a new form of injury was recognised in the nomenclature, that of “special injury” resulting from the addition of several injuries which together constitute a different, new injury.
Criminal handling of the case
The criminal processing has been affected by several toxic orientations.
Firstly, the Public Prosecutor stated three days after the explosion that there was a 90 to 99% chance that it was an accident, without any grounds for saying so. Admittedly, the incident occurred ten days after 11 September and the terrorist attacks in New York, and legitimate public order concerns had prompted the government to avoid any witch-hunt that might have provoked violent reactions in some districts. However, these statements by the Public Prosecutor demobilised the police by preventing it from immediately taking the necessary steps to be able to complete the investigation into an attack:
There were not only many legal and technical problems in this case, but also questions of common sense. The accusation was based entirely on the experts’ 24th experiment, as all the previous ones had failed. Without “experiment 24”, obtaining a conviction was impossible. Prior to experiment 24, the Toulouse Court of First Instance had issued a general decision on 1 December 2005 dismissing the case.
According to this new hypothesis, a worker sweeping the floor of storage shed 335 two days before the disaster was said to have swept up 1.5 kg of DCCNa without realising. He was then said to have thrown the dust into a skip containing hundreds of kilogrammes of nitrate from a burst bag. Two days later, this skip’s contents was said to have been emptied into the box in shed 335 on a floor wet with nitrate. When this happened, the DCCNa on top of the skip was said to have slid off first to spread over the wet nitrate and ferment on contact with it. 14 seconds later, the dry nitrate in the skip was then said to have poured over the DCCNa, forming a sandwich consisting of wet nitrate, DCCNa and dry nitrate, and finally exploded.
However, no traces of chlorine were found when the forensic expert examined the floor of the shed where it was supposed to have been swept up. Moreover, no chlorine was found downstream or upstream.
Toulouse Criminal Court ruling
This lack of evidence led the Court to fully acquit Grande Paroisse and its director. On 19 November 2009, the Court summarised the principles as follows in its ruling: « Criminal law is law that is strictly applied and this is one of the pillars of our democratic society. »
Among the innovations of the defence, it is worth noting the place given by the courts to the technical expertise of the defendants who, under ECHR case law, were granted certain rights similar to those of the judicial experts, entitling them to remain in the courtroom to hear them and discuss their spoken arguments.
The defence did not seek to support any theoretical cause — such as a terrorist attack —given the lack of evidence, although this lack was due to the many shortcomings in the preliminary investigation. The defence did not propose any alternative theories either, considering that all the demonstrations it had tried to make based on the work of the scientific experts did not constitute evidence in the judicial sense of the term.
Toulouse Court of Appeal ruling
The Toulouse Court of Appeal overturned the initial decision with a very biased ruling, sentencing Grande Paroisse to pay a criminal fine and the factory manager to a term of imprisonment. However, the defence discovered that one of the judges was the vice-president of a victims’ association linked to the plaintiffs and so lodged a complaint with the Supreme Judicial Council on grounds of the Toulouse Court of Appeal’s lack of objective impartiality. The Council investigated the matter on behalf of SLA and found that the magistrate concerned had herself asked the First President of the Court of Appeal to replace her before the trial, in view of her conflict of interests. The President of the composition of the Court also asked the First President to replace this judge, but the request was rejected.
Court of Cassation ruling
The Court of Cassation, in its ruling of 13 January 2015, overturned the Toulouse Court of Appeal’s ruling of 24 September 2012 for failing to comply with the principle of objective impartiality and annulled the Court of Appeal’s entire decision. It then referred the case back to the Paris Court of Appeal.
Paris Court of Appeal ruling
On 31 October 2017, the Paris Court of Appeal sentenced Grande Paroisse to a fine and its director to a light suspended sentence. The Court of Appeal held that the experts’ hypothesis (“experiment 24”) was perhaps not what actually happened but rather an example of what could have happened.
Court of Cassation second ruling
On 17 December 2019, the Court of Cassation dismissed the appeal against the ruling of the Paris Court of Appeal.
European Court of Human Rights
The defence has appealed to the ECHR against the Paris Court of Appeal’s ruling after the appeal was rejected. This appeal is founded on a breach of the “certainty of cause” principle required by case law, which must be strictly applied by the court in its acquittal decision. In its hearing of the case, the ECHR may either terminate the case or reopen it at national level in order to review the conviction.
The essence of the problem, as the Court again said in its ruling, is that criminal law must be strictly applied and “this is one of the pillars of our democratic society.” Despite the fact that the Courts of Appeal of Toulouse and Paris are ignorant of this principle, this historical expectation will remain.
This case provided an opportunity for our firm to defend the State as a civil party in one of the biggest scandals in the Mitterrand era.
The “Carrefour du Développement” association was responsible for organising a national summit of African Heads of State on 11 and 12 December 1984 in a virtually barren region of Burundi. The association’s head — the Minister of Cooperation — and his colleague were subsequently prosecuted for embezzlement of public funds. These amounted to 20 million francs used to pay for his 1986 election campaigns, various receptions, the restoration of a castle in Sologne and 1.4 million francs in cash as personal expenses. In 1986, the scandal exploded when the press revealed the highly critical report by the Court of Auditors to the new Minister of Cooperation. The minister’s colleague was sentenced in court to five years’ imprisonment, and the former minister was tried before the High Court, but the law of 15 January 1990 providing a general amnesty for the illegal financing of electoral campaigns put an end to these proceedings, leading to the case being dismissed on 4 April 1990.
This case, which triggered a strong political reaction against the illegal financing of political parties and worsened the atmosphere in the Contaminated Blood case, resulted in the Vedel Commission being formed to create the new Court of Justice for ministers.
The French State, the civil party represented by the Judicial Agent of the Treasury, was assisted by our firm, which merely fulfilled its mission of claiming compensation and the reimbursement of the misappropriated funds without entering into any controversy whatsoever. However, we advised the governments and administration, as did the Judicial Agent of the Treasury, to avoid using associations to circumvent the rules of public accounting.
This case will mainly have been useful for highlighting the flaws in the system. The rules of public accounting are not always suitable for expenses in exotic places. Furthermore, the use of an association allowed the conference centre to be built from the ground up in the middle of nowhere in Bujumbura, but permitted many abuses of the system.
On 12 December 1999, the Erika, an oil tanker chartered by Total to transport nearly 31,000 tons of heavy fuel oil, sank off the coast of Brittany, dramatically polluting the French coast.
The vessel, which was operated by a one-ship company, was certified by one of the world's leading classification societies, RINA, and had just undergone a full maintenance visit in Bigela, Yugoslavia.
Defended by our firm from 2001 with the assistance of three lawyers from the Gide Loyrette Nouel law firm, Total was sued as the charterer of the vessel, alongside all the protagonists (the vessel’s Italian owner, its technical manager, the Greek owner of the one-ship company operating the vessel, the ship’s Indian master, the Italian classification society RINA and four shore rescue officials).
After eight years of investigation, four months of hearings and seven months of deliberation before issuing the ruling, the Paris Criminal Court handed down a judgment on 16 January 2008 ordering the RINA certification office, Total, the vessel’s owner and the technical manager to pay the maximum criminal fine and 192 million euros in damages to the civil parties.
On 30 March 2010, the Paris Court of Appeal overturned this judgment, ruling in particular that Total SA, as the charterer of the vessel, was immune from civil liability under the 1992 International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage; which creates a mechanism for “channelling” civil liability arising from maritime pollution, focusing on the ship-owner but offering various parties involved in the transport of oil, including the vessel’s charterer, immunity that can only be waived if these parties caused the pollution intentionally or as a result of actions or omissions that they « committed recklessly and with the knowledge that such damage would probably result. »
Only the criminal fine was upheld on grounds that the company had poorly applied its internal vetting procedures used to select the vessels chartered by the group. This decision was partially overturned by the Court of Cassation by a decision of 25 September 2012.
The Paris Court of Appeal had applied the above protective provisions of the 1992 CLC Convention to Total SA, noting that although Total could be criminally accused of having « chartered the Erika without complying with the rules which it had itself put in place so as not to risk chartering a vessel unfit to transport seriously polluting products », it could not « be said that the representative of that company (having committed the fault) was aware that, by acting in such a way, would probably result in pollution damage. »
Taking up the grievances set out in the Court of Appeal’s ruling regarding the consequences and scope of Total’s failure to apply its own vetting rules (diligence carried out under the specified conditions and within the specified time would have revealed that the Erika was unsuitable for transporting the planned cargo, the Court of Appeal basically tells us), the Court of Cassation requalified the fault upheld by the Court of Appeal by stating that the facts constituted recklessness within the meaning of the Convention, « and that it follows that (the) representative (of Total SA) was necessarily aware that pollution damage would probably ensue. »
The Court of Cassation thus ruled against the opinion of the Advocate General, who had unequivocally called for the case to be discharged from the outset because, as the accident occurred outside territorial waters, it did not comply with the international treaties signed by France, a fact that should have led to the cassation erga omnes — albeit limited — pronounced by the Paris Court of Appeal.
The press as a whole, not understanding the status of the magistrates of the Public Prosecutor’s Office before the Court of Cassation, believed that this amounted to government interference in the procedure. Combined with Total’s unpopularity and public opinion in favour of finding it guilty, this press misconception no doubt had an impact on the final decision.
During a French football cup semi-final match in Bastia on 5 May 1992, a temporary stand at the Furiani stadium collapsed, killing 18 people and injuring 2,735. Several thousand seats had been attached to metal structures made of standard scaffolding using the so-called “SEMIA” method, which could not support the weight of all the spectators.
The prefect of Bastia and his chief of staff were prosecuted as well as the builder of the stand and the local director of the certification company, both of whom were remanded in custody. SLA, representing the certification company, argued that the company had only been commissioned to check that the ground was firm enough to support the new structures, but not to check the strength of the stand itself. From a legal viewpoint, the question was whether or not there was a contract between the certification company and the Bastia football club (SCCB). It was never disputed, before either the Court of First Instance or the Court of Appeal, that there was no clear written or even verbal contract. Moreover, the certification company’s Bastia branch did not have the expertise to inspect the entire structure. Leading the investigation with gusto, the judge asked the company representatives questions that revealed the fragility of the accusation: “When you gave your business card to the club’s representative, did you “have it in mind” to inspect the entire stand or just the ground?” Answer: “The ground.” After six months, with the agreement of the Prosecutor General Jean-Louis Nadal and his Deputy François Molins, the defence obtained the release of the certification company’s representative.
As in the ARC case a little later, the courthouse was not big enough to contain the many victims. The town theatre in Bastia was requisitioned and for the first time, a trial was broadcast live via video to a different room.
Eight days previously, one of the accused, the Bastia football club’s chairman who organised the semi-final, was assassinated with a shotgun on his doorstep. The trial continued but in such a tense atmosphere that when the defendants arrived at the court, they had to wear bullet-proof vests and snipers were positioned on the rooftops. Furthermore, during the final hearings the victims drowned out the voices of the defence by banging on the seats. As a result, the closing arguments took place in front of an empty room. The company’s representative was sentenced to a lighter prison sentence than the manufacturer and this was commuted to a suspended sentence by the Court of Appeal. The prefect of Bastia was acquitted. His chief of staff was also acquitted but subsequently received a suspended sentence from the Court.
Given the passions surrounding the case, the defence was truly acrobatic. In such situations, the legal matter is completely swept away by a flood of indignation and suppositions that have absolutely nothing to do with the law, meaning it is very difficult to make people understand what the work of a certification office involves. And finally, in this passionate atmosphere, the Court of Cassation considered that there was indeed a contract.
Ultimately, this case gave a victims’ association promoted by the Ministry of Justice the opportunity to show its usefulness in organising compensation for the victims.
A career as a lawyer is most often the result of a chain of circumstances. The development of Soulez Larivière Avocats over the last 50 years does not differ from this rule. It has never changed into a business law firm and has increasingly dealt with unusual situations, often in highly tense, multinational conflicts. This was true of the Garantie Foncière case, which broke out in 1971 in the middle of the Rousseau and Trepper cases. The first major post-war political and financial affair, it provided an opportunity to learn valuable lessons about combining criminal legal action with media campaigns at a time when investigative journalism was in its infancy.
A property trader had created a system of real-estate companies that announced 10.25% returns to subscribers of shares in investment properties, leading to doubts because the banks and Caisse d'Épargne limited themselves to 4.5% interest. These returns were possible due to regular radical rises in the market between the acquisition of the buildings by the property trader and their sale (after works) to the subscribers. The first of them recovered 150% of their stake and the last 100% despite the scandal.
There was a legal void here, since this appropriation of the added value by the system’s inventor was not foreseen, organised or sanctioned by the law. However, as the judicial experts considered that the value of the buildings was half of what was announced, the accusations and the opening of a criminal investigation were based on technically weak grounds of fraud and breach of trust. During the proceedings, an English company bought all the buildings at an extremely low price. However, as the founder of Garantie Foncière had unwisely appointed Count Henri de La Vaysse, known as “Rives Henry” — a Gaullist deputy and colleague of Prime Minister Jacques Chaban-Delmas — as the real-estate investment trust’s President, at a time of in-fighting between the supporters of De Gaulle, Pompidou and Giscard, the accusation gained momentum. The financial affair became a politico-financial one, among the first after the war and one in a long, unfinished list (it even provoked street demonstrations by the Communist Party and was the subject of a song by Henri Salvador!).
The lawyer of Garantie Foncière’s creator was accused of being entirely responsible for setting up this “fraudulent” system. When imprisoned, he chose Soulez Larivière Avocats to defend him because of the strength of the firm’s defence in the Rousseau and Trepper cases.
SLA’s use of extra-judicial means as in the previous two cases culminated in a petition signed by 400 fellow members of the Paris Bar Association, a list of which was posted by Daniel Soulez Larivière in the lawyers' cloakroom. In an unprecedented move, the client, who was on hunger strike in Fleury-Mérogis Prison, granted an interview to L'Express journalist Jacques Derogy, the creator of investigative journalism. This campaign led to the release of our client, showing that the battles were not only fought in the courts but also in public opinion. After having been the prosecution’s first tool, the media were once again the last resort of the defence.
This campaign showed the firm not only the benefits of using the media, but also their limits. In difficult or delicate cases, in fact, the Public Prosecutor’s Office systematically uses it to add public weight to the accusations and then weaken the defendants (as in the Fillon case).
With this Garantie Foncière case, SLA acquired thorough practical experience of defence techniques in guiding public opinion. These techniques largely depend on the circumstances and must be employed boldly but wisely.
On 27 June 1991, 20 people died from asphyxiation following an accident during roof repairs on the Barbotan Thermal Baths in Cazaubon, when a worker spilled a bucket of burning tar on the roof. The burning tar seeped into a hole the size of a coin, setting fire to polyethylene and the surrounding construction and causing the death by asphyxiation of people inside the building.
In this case, Soulez Larivière Avocats advised the mayor of the town, who was being prosecuted along with the two prefects (the one in office when the works began, and his successor) and other people responsible for the chain of thermal baths.
On 29 July 1998, the Court of Toulouse confirmed the prefects’ acquittal, the conviction of the head of the thermal baths chain and the mayor’s suspended sentence. The Court of Cassation rejected the subsequent appeals.
The mayor was held criminally liable as a natural person, separate from the civil liability of the municipality as a legal person. Along with others, this case probably led to the penal code being changed by the Fauchon law, since mayors were usually in the front line if accidents happened in their town. This reform was initially designed for public decision-makers until the Constitutional Council made it known that one could not make a distinction between citizens and make a special regime for some but not others. The Fauchon law upheld this new feature of the penal code: “wilful” or “manifest” misconduct, the latter of which is supposed to appear so serious that it is obvious to the judges.
In any event, in view of the nature of the acts of which he was accused and which could in no way be regarded as manifest misconduct within the meaning of the later law of July 2000, the mayor of Cazaubon could not have been prosecuted had he been tried after the law was passed.
In July 1985, a Greenpeace ship was attacked in Auckland harbour by the “action” branch of the French foreign intelligence services (SDECE) on the orders of the Minister of Defence. The case was the subject of public debate in France from the time the two French agents posing as the Turenge couple were arrested in July 1985 until their transfer to Hao Atoll in June 1986. The settlement was reached under the aegis of the Secretary General of the United Nations, Javier Perez de Cuellar.
Professionally, the main two critical phases were the arbitration between the French State and Greenpeace for the loss of the vessel, and the plea of guilty before the Auckland Court.
At the request of Daniel Soulez Larivière, supported by Louis Joinet in the Prime Minister’s Office, Jean-Louis Bianco at the Elysée and Robert Badinter in the Justice Department, the French State agreed to a civil settlement for the first time in its history and accepted a “guilty plea” for the two agents. It was necessary to separate the Greenpeace association’s case from that of the agents detained in New Zealand. Arbitration between Greenpeace and the French State was immediately organised and signed once compensation had been paid to the family of the photographer killed in this operation, which had been designed not to have any victims. The Greenpeace Association was awarded compensation for the loss of its ship by the arbitration court appointed in Geneva.
The case of the two agents had to be taken out of the judicial domain as soon as possible and into that of international political negotiations. This goal was achieved since, after being arrested in July 1985, the two French agents were released in June 1986 and transferred to Hao Atoll before being returned to mainland China in 1987 and 1989. This was possible because of the British/American system of negotiated justice, which allows the prosecution and the defence to negotiate a solution to a crisis. In this case, this consisted of agreeing to plead guilty in exchange for the charge being changed from voluntary manslaughter to involuntary manslaughter. The trial lasted only 25 minutes for the hearing in which the charges were changed and the guilty plea submitted, and 1h15 for pleading mitigating circumstances.
SLA is highly familiar with British/American legal proceedings and American negotiated justice and has been a forerunner in these methods. Their use by the firm has been a turning point in its work, particularly with the Sapin 2 law implementing the CJIP (judicial convention of public interest), a negotiated vehicle of which it has been a fervent promoter.
On 23 May 2004 the roof of terminal 2E at Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport collapsed, killing four people and injuring seven others. The cause was a defect in the strength of the reinforced concrete of an arch. Lengthy criminal proceedings for manslaughter against the airport ADP and three other companies ensued. Soulez Larivière Avocats was responsible for defending all ADP employees who might be involved. None were sent to trial or even indicted.
This case marks a change seen in other fields such as aviation as only the liability of legal persons was retained in this disaster. However, it took 14 years for the legal persons to be convicted. This once again raises the problem of the relevance of the criminal prosecution system for accidents, which is different outside France and completely ignored by common law countries.
A major oil company that built a pipeline from the Arabian Sea to Thailand was accused by a human rights association of using forced labour and, under French law, of false imprisonment, prompting the filing of a complaint and the indictment of the head of the local facilities.
Burma (Myanmar) was contracted to undertake a number of works to enable the pipeline to be installed and operated. The army, which essentially administered the country, requisitioned peasants to do the work it was responsible for, but without payment under a system of servitude similar to that under France’s Old Regime.
On discovering this situation, the company voluntarily paid compensation, opening a payment desk for all local workers who had not been paid. Other workers subsequently came forward through legal action initiated by the SHERPA association in France. An agreement was reached between SHERPA and the oil company with the consent of the investigating judge. A solidarity fund of 5.5 million euros was set up to find anyone who had been employed on the site without being paid, in support of the UNHCR which was short of resources for its local programmes and to promote actions helping refugees. A programme was set up with the help of local associations and the Thai episcopate in particular. The investigating judge then dismissed the case.
This fund was exhausted to everyone’s satisfaction at the end of 2018, when 480 people had been traced and compensated and aid programmes had been launched to help the refugee populations along the Myanmar-Thailand border. This was another positive outcome of Soulez Larivière Avocats handling a court case with a negotiated exit.
Soulez Larivière Avocats has many years of experience in the field of industrial accidents and occupational diseases. The firm’s lawyers are involved in often highly technical cases in a wide variety of industries and sectors of activity.
Soulez Larivière Avocats has been assisting its clients for many years in the area of criminal risk prevention.
The firm provides personalised training courses based on the needs and sectors of the business in which its clients are involved.
It has worked with various companies and organisations on criminal risk prevention in relation to subjects including the following:
In addition, since the adoption of the Sapin 2 law, SLA has been assisting its clients in implementing their compliance programmes.
Lastly, SLA’s lawyers assist their clients in following up internal investigations carried out as a result of a whistleblower or an ethical alert.
Soulez Larivière Avocats is regularly consulted on contractual pre-litigation and litigation matters regarding frequently technical, complex cases in the financial, aeronautical, film, automobile and construction industries as well as others.
Soulez Larivière Avocats defends individuals or legal persons accused or victims of embezzlement and/or fraud.
Soulez Larivière Avocats is particularly aware of the issue of personal data protection, which stems directly from the right to privacy.
The firm is continually developing effective solutions to obtain the deletion of its clients’ personal information stored in public or private, national or international files (INTERPOL Red Notices, criminal records, FNAEG, TAJ etc.).
It also acts to assert the right to be forgotten on the Internet, particularly when issues related to image and reputation are at stake (defamation, illegal advertising etc.).
Lastly, SLA assists and advises companies in the management of their employees’ personal and/or protected data, both in setting up data collection tools and in the subsequent processing of the data, to enable them to adapt to increasingly stringent legal requirements in this area.
The digital transformation in information processing is drastically increasing both the malicious use and hacking of personal and private data and the complexity of data protection.
In this respect, Soulez Larivière Avocats defends the interests of individuals and legal persons, both perpetrators and victims, in disputes relating to the respect of privacy and personal data, particularly with regard to breach of the secrecy of correspondence, cyber espionage, identity theft and defamation on the Internet.
For several years, Soulez Larivière Avocats has been handling cases involving senior civil servants, company directors and officers prosecuted for alleged acts of psychological harassment, often accused directly by the civil party in order to challenge sanctions, the denial of promotion or measures taken against them by the employer.
Several cases currently being handled by the firm also highlight the emergence of new types of harassment, referred to as “structural” or managerial harassment, based on employees accusing the defendant of exposing them to a risk of overwork, burnout or depression. These cases mainly occur because companies are increasingly obliged to set an example in the management of psycho-social risks and are often accompanied by a preliminary examination of the cases by the labour inspection authority, which has been given extensive powers and responsibilities in criminal matters.
As well as handling moral harassment in the workplace, SLA also handles personal harassment cases.
En droit pénal du travail, les dossiers qui nous sont confiés concernent également fréquemment des litiges opposant partenaires sociaux, dirigeants et sociétés à travers des infractions diverses telle que l’entrave au processus d’information consultation, mais également des sujets relatifs à l’hygiène et à la sécurité, au travail dissimulé, ou encore au prêt illicite de mains d'oeuvre... Comme ceux relatifs au harcèlement, ces litiges sont souvent engagés sur citation directe de parties civiles, ou à l’issue d’enquête menée particulièrement à charge par l’inspection du travail.
Soulez Larivière Avocats regularly acts in cases in which European Arrest Warrants or extradition requests have been issued, as counsel for the person whose surrender is requested by France but also as experts in French law in extradition proceedings abroad.
More generally, SLA’s lawyers are actively involved, through the European Criminal Bar Association in particular, in shaping European legislation and case law to make up for the inadequacies of French law in terms of the right of defence, and in particular access to the file prior to the surrender of wanted persons, remedies against the lack of proportionality or impartiality in decisions to issue arrest warrants by French investigating judges, or the adaptation of the criteria for pre-trial custody for foreign persons handed over to the French authorities, who in the vast majority of cases have no guarantee of representation on French territory.
Company directors may be held liable for endangering the lives of others in all the decisions they may be required to make. However, the scope of this offence is somewhat vague and interpreted in different ways by the French courts.
The role of Soulez Larivière Avocats is often to advocate the strict application of criminal law and the consideration of only those facts that could reasonably be anticipated by its clients. This role can be all the more complex when the field of activity of its clients is itself highly technical.
The emergence of negotiated justice and the increasing number of cross-border disputes, particularly in the fight against corruption, together mean that companies must take into account the specifics of French law, which — as far as data communication is concerned — rarely coincides with foreign law.
Since 2014, Soulez Larivière Avocats has built up in-depth expertise in finding solutions that reconcile the imperatives of “cooperation” with foreign authorities with the rules requiring the protection of personal data, employee privacy, professional secrecy, along with the specifically French Blocking Statute that must be taken into account by foreign courts and public prosecutors.
For some years, the firm has also been involved in several cases concerning the protection of personal data and, in particular, the obligations of companies with respect to the GDPR when sending data to foreign entities or authorities.
When handling its cases, Soulez Larivière Avocats is thoroughly conversant with the various tools and remedies available against criminal seizures and confiscations implemented either as a precautionary measure at the investigation stage or as a sanction in the event of conviction.
The firm’s lawyers are highly familiar with the practice and are developing a strategic approach to dealing with the measures increasingly used by prosecutors to validate theories against suspects whose presumption of innocence is being disregarded.
The criminalisation of previously tolerated business practices, the strengthening of the international fight against corruption via multilateral cooperation and the OECD Convention, as well as the growth and diversification of prosecution mechanisms, have led to a resurgence in cases involving the bribery of foreign public officials, which now account for a significant proportion of the cases of bribery, influence peddling and other attacks on probity handled by Soulez Larivière Avocats.
Soulez Larivière Avocats is regularly called upon in accidents involving private, business or leisure aircraft. These cases, which receive less media coverage than airliner crashes, also involve the liability of manufacturers, operators, pilots, air traffic controllers and pilots under the highly specialised provisions of aviation regulations.
The firm also advises aeronautical companies in preventive audits mainly intended to anticipate and map criminal risk.
The discovery in March 2010 of a large-scale fraud involving silicone gel breast implants manufactured by the company Poly Implants Prothèses (PIP) shook the thousands of victims concerned and all involved in in the healthcare system.
An inspection by the AFSSAPS discovered that the company had been using an “in-house” silicone gel for around ten years instead of the approved silicone gel appearing in the implant’s (certified) manufacturing procedure. It emerged that the implant produced in this way had escaped all the safety guarantees attached to the manufacture and monitoring of class III implantable medical devices (which constitute the highest risk).
PNearly one out of three women affected by this fraud had to undergo breast reconstruction following cancer. This extremely difficult situation, in which the women affected were actually harmed twice, led the Ligue nationale contre le cancer association to set up an emergency fund for providing psychological, social and material support to the women concerned, as well as legal assistance to the victims through a dedicated unit, which SLA handled.
The prejudice suffered by the victims due to the lower quality of the implants had in some cases resulted in early bursts, transudation and the onset of siliconomas. In addition to this physical prejudice, the situation caused great anxiety in women who currently had PIP implants or had had one in the past, and the vast majority of them underwent preventive explantations.
The la Ligue nationale contre le cancer decided to act alongside the victims and to defend health system users by becoming civil parties in the trial for deception that took place in April and May 2013 before the Marseille Criminal Court and in November 2015 before the Aix-en-Provence Court of Appeal. Soulez Larivière Avocats too defended a number of women bringing a civil action.
Nearly six years after the fraud was discovered, the Aix-en-Provence Court of Appeal confirmed the convictions first handed down against the former executives and managers of the company for aggravated deception, fraud (to the detriment of the certifier) and complicity in these offences, as well as the compensation awarded to the victims. For the first time, the prejudice of anxiety was recognised outside asbestos-related litigation. The sentences handed down by the Criminal Court were confirmed by the Court of Appeal, with the company’s chief executive being sentenced to the maximum penalty incurred for the offence of deception (4 years’ imprisonment) as well as a fine of 75,000 euros and a permanent ban on working in the health sector and managing a company. The Court of Cassation validated the convictions in September 2018.
In this case, the association, through the voice of Capucine Lanta de Bérard, particularly took up the need to have the offence of aggravated deception, « involving a danger to human health »recognised instead of just deception as the defendants believed. This qualification was essential if the trial was to serve the purpose of strengthening health safety in the future through this conviction and if medical device producers were to be aware of the seriousness of such deception and the need to comply with the “essential safety requirements” laid down in this area.
The Court of Appeal recognised this need, which was greatly supported by the Ligue nationale contre le cancer association, when it decided that« by disregarding all these imperatives and choosing to fill medical devices intended to be implanted in the human body with a gel that was not only not the one provided for in the design file drawn up to obtain CE certification but which, moreover, was manufactured from products that were not qualified for medical use and not tested to the required standards under conditions that established their safety, the defendants, as the court held, exposed the users of these devices to a risk to their health. »
This case is a landmark in many respects, because of its scale, the seriousness of the deception and the suffering of the victims, but also by its legal and procedural peculiarities. As the first criminal case in France to involve more than 7,500 civil parties, it required extraordinary organisational measures and highlighted the limits of current criminal procedure when implementing a mass trial.
It also represents an innovation on the part of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, which decided to separate the deception proceedings from the investigation into injuries and manslaughter, mainly for the sake of speed (the investigation is still under way almost ten years after the deception was discovered). The Public Prosecutor’s Office had also chosen to give access to the file at the investigative stage without any text providing for this at the time. This separation of the case led to some documents from the pending investigation file being produced during the proceedings, on behalf of the defence.
The legal victory of the civil parties will, however, remain essentially symbolic. The five individuals are unable to pay the compensation to which they have been sentenced, as the PIP company was in judicial liquidation at the time of the trial. The French Crime Victims’ Compensation Recovery Assistance Service (SARVI) has made up for this shortcoming, but only in part. Similarly, the company’s insurer has paid partial compensation. This case highlights the difficulty of reconciling criminal liability with effective compensation for victims in a case where the defendants alone cannot bear the burden. Some parallel proceedings were directed at the French State and the certifier of the implants. In reality, finding a solution more acceptable to the victims is only possible by bringing together everyone concerned by the case and creating an ad-hoc compensation fund.
In addition to providing information on the dangerousness of smoking and introducing measures to help people stop smoking and tax deterrents, tobacco control also involves the judiciary and regulations. Soulez Larivière Avocats has extensive experience in this field.
Soulez Larivière Avocats is a benchmark in the field of crises and disasters, including industrial, air and maritime disasters, which usually result in manslaughter prosecutions in France. This offence is also found in less high-profile prosecutions brought against companies and their managers, or even their staff, following fatal accidents at work and more generally whenever a death is likely to have been caused by the carelessness of a third party, whether an individual or a legal entity.