Update: Joint Infection Lawsuits Selected for Bellwether Trials
April 21, 2017 – The court overseeing the federal Bair Hugger MDL is moving forward with plans to convene bellwether trials for joint infection lawsuits early next year. According to a Brief filed earlier this month, more than 30 such complaints have been nominated as potential bellwether trial candidates, all of which will be subject to limited case-specific discovery pending selection of a Final Bellwether Trial pool.
What is the Bair Hugger?
Manufactured by 3M, the Bair Hugger consists of a portable heater/blower connected by a flexible hose to a blanket that blows warm air on a patient’s skin. Studies have shown that keeping a patient warm during surgery produces benefits including less bleeding and faster recovery times. The Bair Hugger was invented by Scott Augustine, MD, and approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in 1988.
Forced Air Warmers Linked to Hip / Knee Replacement Infections
According to a report published in The New York Times in 2010, Dr. Augustine is now warning hospitals not to use the Bair Hugger Warming System with implantable devices because it may spread bacteria associated with hospital-acquired infections.
What’s the Problem?
Since Augustine’s warning, a number of lawsuits have been filed over the Bair Hugger Warming System’s alleged link to MRSA and other hospital-acquired infections. These complaints allege that the device can suck up and recirculate contaminated air near the floor of operating rooms. Any bacteria present on the floor may come in contact with the patient and land on the hip or knee implant, leading to adverse health complications including deep joint infections and other hospital-acquired infections.
Bair Hugger lawsuits pending against 3M accuse the company of:
- Knowing about the risks associated with using the warming blanket during orthopedic surgery;
- Not attempting to redesign the system despite understanding the risks;
- Failing to warn the public and medical communities of the risk of deep infection during hip and knee replacement surgery, and
- Attempting to conceal and discredit and scientific data that identified potential risks associated with the device.
3M Sued Over Bair Hugger Injury, Amputation
A Texas man has filed a civil lawsuit against 3M for an injury that was allegedly caused by the Bair Hugger Warming System. The complaint was filed on behalf of 70-year-old Tommy Walton, who underwent hip replacement surgery at a Houston orthopedic hospital in 2011. According to the lawsuit, Walton sustained a deep joint infection during total hip replacement surgery which was caused by the Bair Hugger.
Since he developed the infection, Walton claims he has required 15 additional surgeries, one of which included removal of the hip replacement. The lawsuit alleges that the Bair Hugger picked up bacteria from under the operating table and was then recirculated into the hip replacement device. Walton is seeking $1 million in damages. The complaint is: Case No. 4:13-cv-01164.
Another lawsuit filed in Kansas in 2013 alleges that contaminated air kicked up by a Bair Hugger caused an MRSA infection that led to a patient’s leg being amputated. Both complaints allege that the device allows air to build up under the surgical drape, which then escapes below the surgical table. The air creates warm airflow currents that deposit bacteria from the operating room floor to the surgical site, according to the lawsuits. The lawsuit is: Case No. 2:14-cv-02044.
Bair Hugger Complications
Potential treatments that may be needed to address deep joint infections caused by a Bair Hugger blanket may include:
- Insertion of antibiotic spacers in the infected joint
- IV antibiotic therapy
- Physical therapy
- Removal of implant
- Amputation of the affected limb if the infection cannot be cured
Has There Been a Recall?
To date, no recall has been issued for the Bair Hugger surgical blanket related to deep joint infections. However, the investigation into the device is still in its early stages, and it often takes many years and thousands of attorney hours for all the facts to come out that may eventually lead to a recall. Even the inventor of the Bair Hugger, Dr. Scott Augustine, has warned that the device poses a danger to surgical patients because the forced air can spread bacteria associated with infections.
Bair Hugger MDL Tops 1300 Cases
March 17, 2017 – The federal multidistrict litigation (MDL NO. 2666) established in the U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, for deep joint infection lawsuits involving the 3M Bair Hugger forced air warming system has grown to at least 1,343 cases, according to a report (PDF) issued Wednesday by the JPML. This number represents an increase of 140 filings since February 15, when the JPML reported 1,203 lawsuits pending in the MDL.
Woman Claims Bair Hugger Caused Burns
November 14, 2016 – A woman is suing Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, the 3M Company and Arizant Healthcare Inc., alleging that she was severely burned after undergoing surgery with a Bair Hugger warming blanket. Plaintiff Diane Shannon is seeking judgement against the defendants in excess of $50,000 plus court costs, claiming they failed to safeguard her care. The case is: Cook County Circuit Court Case number 16L010954.
Nearly 700 Lawsuits Consolidated in Bair Hugger MDL
September 27, 2016 – The Bair Hugger multidistrict litigation (MDL 15-2666) has grown by at least 147 lawsuits since August 15, bringing the current total to 693 cases. And while the MDL is still in its early stages, the sheer number of complaints filed are likely to force 3M and Arizant to answer some important questions regarding the safety of the Bair Hugger.
Bellwether Trials Could Begin November 2017
April 14, 2016 – The first cases in the Bair Hugger multidistrict litigation (MDL) could start heading to trial next November, according to a Pretrial Order (PDF) issued last month. The Order stipulates that the parties are to draft a plan for the selection of bellwether cases by Oct. 17, 2016. Complaints eligible for inclusion the bellwether trial pool include those pending in the MDL as of Dec. 19, 2016. Bellwether case selection will be completed by Mar. 1, 2017, with case-specific discovery to begin on Mar. 2. Discovery will conclude no later than Jul. 1, 2017.
Veteran Alleges Leg Amputation Caused by Bair Hugger Infection
March 29, 2016 – A Vietnam veteran and former New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) officer is suing 3M and Arizant Healthcare after allegedly developing an infection which led to the amputation of his left leg from knee replacement surgery with a bair Hugger blanket. Plaintiff Lee Edward Peyton alleges that 3M and Arizant knew about problems associated with the Bair Hugger, yet failed to adequately warn the public and medical communities of the risks. Peyton is seeking damages for breach of express warranty, design defect and liability under the Louisiana Products Liability Act.
Louisiana Man Alleges Severe Infection, Contamination from Bair Hugger Blanket
March 3, 2016 – A lawsuit was filed last month against 3M and Arizant Healthcare by a New Orleans man who claims that the Bair Hugger forced bacteria into his open surgical wound during knee surgery in December 2011, causing infection and contamination of the wound site. Plaintiff Richard Smith said he has required additional surgical procedures as a result of his injuries. Smith is suing 3M and Arizant for negligence, misrepresentation, fraud and deceit, breach of express warranty, breach of implied warranty, and violations of the Louisiana Products Liability Act.
Conference Scheduled in Bair Hugger MDL
February 11, 2016 – An Initial Pretrial Conference has been scheduled for Thurs., Feb. 18 at 9:30 a.m. CST, according to a Pretrial Order (PDF) issued earlier this week. A number of issues may be addressed during the conference, including the structure of plaintiffs’ leadership and the status of state court proceedings.
Bair Hugger Lawsuits Consolidated in Minnesota
December 17, 2015 – A panel of federal judges has issued an order to transfer a number of lawsuits alleging injuries from the Bair Hugger blanket into a multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota. The MDL was established to preside over all federally filed cases concerning claims that the Bair Hugger releases bacteria that can cause deep joint infections. As of March 2016, at least 170 cases have been transferred to the MDL. The litigation is: In Re: Bair Hugger Forced Air Warming Products Liability Litigation; MDL No. 2666; Case MN/0:15-cv-03328.
Consolidation Requested for Bair Hugger Lawsuits
As the number of hip and knee infection lawsuits filed against 3M over the Bair Hugger continue to grow in courthouses around the country, a motion has been filed with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) to have the cases centralized in a single jurisdiction pretrial handling. In a motion to transfer filed August 21, plaintiff William Lichlyter stated that given the similarities between the cases, they should be transferred to the District of Minnesota to reduce duplicative discovery, avoid conflicting rulings by different judges, and to serve the convenience of all parties involved in the litigation.
The transfer would include at least 14 lawsuits brought against 3M and Arizant to date. Nine of the 14 complaints have been filed in the District of Minnesota, making the venue “a superior choice,” according to the motion. JPML will hear oral arguments regarding the proposed centralization on December 3.
Defendants Oppose MDL
3M and Arizant have voiced their opposition to a proposed multidistrict litigation for all federally-filed Bair Hugger Lawsuits. In a Joint Response filed with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) on Sept. 14, the companies argued that the complaints have no scientific basis, and contain too many individual factors to warrant the creation of an MDL. Click here to learn more.
Class Action vs. Multidistrict Litigation
Class action lawsuits involve a limited number of representative plaintiffs who file a suit alleging that they and other members of the class have been harmed in the same manner by the actions of the defendant(s). In most cases, the compensation sought as a result of the harm is identical or nearly equivalent for all members of the class. Class action lawsuit settlements are approved by the court overseeing the case and bind all members who do not opt-out of the settlement. Members who choose to opt-out may pursue their own individual claims.
Multidistrict litigations occur when cases involving 1 or more common questions of fact are pending in different U.S. district courts. MDLs are typically established when a defendant or group of defendants have caused a similar harm that has affected multiple people in different ways. In such cases, plaintiffs have been damaged in ways unique enough that a class action is not appropriate, but pursuing individual claims separately is not practical.
Knee Surgery Infection Lawsuit Filed in Minnesota
A Mississippi woman has filed a lawsuit against 3M and Arizant after she allegedly developed a severe infection while undergoing knee replacement surgery in which a Bair Hugger warming blanket was used. After the surgery, plaintiff Tracy Crawford was forced to have her knee implant removed and replaced with an antibiotic spacer because of the infection, according to the lawsuit. Click here to learn more.
California Man Alleges Severe Joint Infection from Warming Blanket
A lawsuit filed against 3M and Arizant by Manuel Griego of California alleges the companies have known since at least 2009 that the Bair Hugger can increase the risk of surgical infection, but failed to adequately warn the public and medical communities about this risk. After undergoing knee replacement surgery with the warming blanket, Griego claims he was forced to have his original knee implant removed and replaced with an antibiotic spacer. Click here to learn more.
Alabama Patient Blames Hospital Infection on Bair Hugger
Nobody warned an Alabama man that the warming blanket which was used during his total knee replacement surgery could be the cause of several severe infections he developed after the operation. Calvin, who is 59-years-old and weighs 320 pounds, suffered his worst infection in 2013 when he was hospitalized with a bacterial infection he couldn’t overcome.
“Living like this sucks, but I just have to keep going,” Calvin said. “I am pretty mad at the Bair Hugger maker. Apparently they knew this warming blanket increased the surgical risk of infection for several years but they chose to hide that information.”
Do I Have a Bair Hugger Lawsuit?
The Class Action Litigation Group at our law firm is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focus on the representation of plaintiffs in Bair Hugger lawsuits. We are handling individual litigation nationwide and currently investigating potential settlements in all 50 states.
Free Confidential Case Evaluation: Again, if you or a loved one was injured by the 3M Bair Hugger Warming System, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to a settlement by filing a suit and we can help.