Today, a U.S. Judicial on Multidistrict Litigation panel of federal judges will hear arguments on Plaintiffs’ request to consolidate all of the knee and hip infection lawsuits that have been filed in federal court claims the infection was allegedly caused by a 3M Bair Hugger warming blanket.
What These Bair Hugger Cases Are About
A Bair Hugger device is a temperature management system that is used during surgery. The purpose of the invention is to help the body regulate the appropriate temperature. The Bair Hugger pushed hot air through a hose into a blanket specially made to work with the device. The hot air produced by Bair Hugger accumulates under the surgical drape covering the patient. This hot air escapes under the surgical drape below the level of the surgical table or over top of it
Bair Hugger Forced Air Warming Device is designed, manufactured, and marketed by Defendants 3M Company and Arizant Healthcare, Inc.
There are more than 50,000 Bair Hugger FAWs in the United States.
How does it work? The Bair Hugger is a portable heater/blower connected by a flexible hose to a blanket, typically positioned the patient getting surgery.
Keeping a patient warm is particularly useful during knee and hip replacement surgery because the procedures tend to be very long. The body loses heat increasingly over the course of surgery.
Another thing about metal hip and knee replacement surgery is that your body is particularly prone to infection. Why? The metal helps spread the infection.
So if you are not already familiar with this litigation, you know where this is going. The device is blowing bacteria on the patient. These germs are expelled from the interior of the Bair Hugger FAW blower by the outward airflow, traveling through the hose into the disposable blanket and escaping all over the operating table and the patient. If bacteria in a surgical site is not bad enough, the metal helps grease the wheels of further infection.
I said just 50,000 of these Bair Huggers are operational. How many operations are done with this device? One estimate puts the number of surgical procedures using the Bair Hugger at over 100 million. These will likely be thousands of lawsuits. At the core of these claims will be the idea that the design of these blowers was flawed. Given the risks of blowing bacteria in the surgical area, plaintiffs’ lawsuits allege that the Bair Hugger should have been designed to prevent internal contamination and the emission of airborne contamination. One big problem for 3M is going to be a study that found that 96% of the Bair Hugger systems were dispersing inordinately excessive levels of contaminants.
This will also be a “what did you know and when did you know it?” lawsuit. Plaintiffs’ lawsuits will also contend that setting aside the design failure and the failure to test, the manufacturer knew or should have known of the risk of infection the Bair Hugger was causing and did nothing about it.
Plaintiffs’ experts have concluded the Bair Hugger can cause deep joint infections in exposed patients. They believe Bair Hugger creates convective currents that carry bacteria-laden particles from near the floor to the surgical site. Plaintiffs’ experts’ opinions rely on a comprehensive search of the relevant literature, their own independent experiments, review of the combination of numerous sources of evidence, and internal 3M documents to conclude that the Bair Hugger transmits particles and bacteria to the surgical site.
Bair Hugger Class Action
I’m using the phrase “class action” but that is not really what plaintiffs’ lawyers are seeking. They are more of a “sort of” class action called an MDL. I explain more fully what an MDL is here. If the MDL panel agrees with the plaintiffs’ attorneys, all of the cases federal Bair Hugger cases would be consolidated into one case under one federal court judge. Pre-trial discovery into issues common to all of the cases would be conducted. Typically, the MDL judge will preside over a few trials to help the parties better understand the value of the claims. If that does not lead to a global settlement, the cases would be sent to local federal courts around the country for pre-trial discovery specific to that case and then trial.
3M opposes consolidation of the cases. But I think it is inevitable. Even if the MDL Panel denies this effort, the sheer number of cases is going to cause the judges to agree to consolidation.
Getting a Lawyer
Our law firm is signing up clients for what we believe will be MDL class action claim consolidated under one federal court judge in the Bair Hugger infection cases. Our focus is on kneed and hip cases where the victim needed to undergo subsequent treatment or subsequent surgery for an infection, call us at 800-553-8082 or get a free consultation online.