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You Should Think Carefully Before Undergoing Cosmetic Surgery Abroad

Many Britons travel abroad for cosmetic surgery blissfully unaware that, if something goes wrong, obtaining just compensation can present a major challenge. In the case of a woman who underwent a breast enhancement procedure in Belgium, however, a series of obstacles were overcome.

After coming across the website of a Belgian clinic on the internet, the woman was impressed by the good value of the procedures on offer, 'before' and 'after' photos on display and glowing reviews from past patients. Having booked herself in, she was operated on at the clinic by a consultant surgeon who was domiciled in Belgium.

She subsequently launched proceedings against the clinic and the surgeon, alleging breach of contract and that the operation had been negligently performed. On the basis that the events giving rise to her claim had occurred in Belgium, however, they each asserted that the English courts had no jurisdiction to hear her case.

Ruling on the matter, the Court declined jurisdiction to entertain her claim against the clinic. There was no gateway to English jurisdiction in that she had failed to establish a good arguable case that she had entered into a consumer contract for medical treatment and/or medical services with the clinic.

Although she had no memory of reading the clinic's terms and conditions, she would have had to accept them before making her booking online. They stated that the clinic's role was confined to the provision of premises and infrastructure – operating theatres, waiting rooms and the like – and that it was not a party to any treatment agreements reached between physicians and their patients.

The Court, however, had no hesitation in finding that she had a good arguable case that she had entered into a consumer contract with the surgeon. On the basis of the contractual documentation, that was the only logical conclusion. The jurisdictional gateway was therefore open and her claim against the surgeon could be tried in England.