Bair Hugger Deep Joint Infection Litigation Moves Forward

Bair Hugger MDL Grows, Plaintiffs Sue over Warming Device

Lawsuits continue to be filed over the Bair Hugger, a surgical blanket used to keep patients warm during surgery. Plaintiffs in the litigation allege that the device, which uses a forced-air design to maintain a patient’s body temperature, leads to deep joint infections. 3M and Arizant are accused of knowing about the risks but failing to warn patients or the medical community.

The personal injury attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP have decades of experience representing clients in lawsuits over injuries allegedly caused by defective or dangerous medical devices. The firm continues to offer free legal consultations to individuals with questions about filing a Bair Hugger forced-air warming blanket lawsuit.

Bair Hugger lawsuits have been consolidated into a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota. An MDL is a type of mass tort created by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML), where lawsuits with common questions of fact are grouped together in one court. The goal of an MDL is to make complex litigation more efficient by eliminating duplicate pretrial proceedings, including the discovery process and expert testimonies. Consolidation makes the litigation move along faster than if the cases proceed individually in court.

Court records indicate that the Bair Hugger MDL continues to grow. As of Jan. 15, 2017, a total of 1,105 Bair Hugger lawsuits were pending in the MDL. Between Dec. 15, 2016 and Jan. 15, 2017, an additional 166 Bair Hugger lawsuits were added to the MDL.

Lawsuits are filed on behalf of plaintiffs who developed a deep joint infection after undergoing a surgery where the Bair Hugger warming system was used. Allegedly, the warming blanket caused the infections; plaintiffs allege that the forced-air design makes the system defective because it disrupts the flow of air in the operating room and picks up contaminants off the floor, depositing them into the surgical site. 3M is accused of knowing about these risks but failing to warn patients or the medical community.

In some plaintiffs, the infection ultimately resulted in leg amputation. Lawsuits filed on their behalf allege that the Bair Hugger caused the infection and subsequent complications.

According to a pretrial order dated Mar. 24, 2016, bellwether cases in the Bair Hugger MDL are to be chosen by Mar. 1, 2017. Bellwether cases are the first several lawsuits in a mass tort to go to trial; the plaintiffs selected often represent most of the litigation. As such, bellwether trials are used to gauge the direction of the overall litigation. The outcome of bellwether trials can facilitate settlement talks, for example, if juries award large verdicts to the plaintiffs.

What is the Bair Hugger?

The Bair Hugger is a disposable blanket used during surgery to keep patients warm. The device is connected to a flexible hose, which blows warm air into the blanket. Arizant introduced the Bair Hugger in 1987. The company and its products have since been acquired by 3M.

Parker Waichman notes that Dr. Scott Augustine, who created the Bair Hugger, has since advocated against its use. He says that the forced-air design of the blanket causes contaminants to be picked up off the OR floor and introduced into the surgical site, leading to deep joint infections. Dr. Augustine sells a competing surgical warming device called the HotDog. It uses conductive heat rather than forced-air.

The Bone & Joint Journal published a study in 2011 showing that the forced-air warming system was associated with a “significant increase in deep joint infection”. Another study published in the journal in 2013 cited “tornado-like vortexes” that can result from using the device. It is thought that this disruption in air flow introduces contaminants into the patient’s surgical site.

In commenting on this alleged risk, Dr. Augustine has said “We studied this extensively for about 18 months. I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that the waste heat rises every single time. This was reported before 3M even bought the company,” according to Star Tribune. “3M can say that it doesn’t happen. … But when you are going against a basic law of physics, it’s kind of an absurd thing to say.”

Legal Help for Individuals Filing a Bair Hugger Lawsuit

If you or someone you know suffered an infection following a surgical procedure that used a Bair Hugger forced-air warming blanket, you may have valuable legal rights. The personal injury attorneys at Parker Waichman offer free, no-obligation case evaluations. For more information, fill out our online form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).

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