With more than a dozen Bair Hugger lawsuits now pending against the 3M Company and its Arizant Healthcare, Inc. subsidiary, one plaintiff has come forward to push for the centralization of the docket in a single federal court. In a Motion filed with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) last month, the plaintiff argues that consolidating the cases in the District of Minnesota would promote judicial efficiency and better serve the interests of the parties involved in the growing litigation.
“Defendants 3M and Arizant Healthcare, Inc. conduct significant business in the District of Minnesota. Indeed, Minnesota is the principal place of business for both Defendants. Additionally, the Bair Hugger was invented in Minnesota. Nearly every document and witness critical to the Bair Hugger litigation is located in Minnesota,” the plaintiff’s August 21st Motion states.
The Bair Hugger forced air warming blanket is used in more than 90% of the surgeries performed in the U.S. each year. It is intended to improve patient outcomes by maintaining an optimal body temperature throughout a procedure. To do so, the blanket is heated with forced air, which is delivered by way of a hose connected to a heater located close to the operating room floor.
At least 14 Bair Hugger lawsuits are currently pending in five U.S. District Courts, all of which accuse 3M and Arizant Healthcare of failing to warn patients that its use could increase the risk of infection and other complications from surgery, especially in hip and knee replacement procedures. According to these complaints, the device’s air circulation system can pick up pathogens and contaminants from the operating room floor, and deposit them into the surgical site. All 14 lawsuits were filed on behalf of hip and knee replacement patients who are alleged to have developed serious post-op infections after the Bair Hugger was used during their implant surgery. In some cases, the infections were serious enough to warrant revision surgery or even amputation.
It’s not known when the JPML might rule on the plaintiff’s motion. It is scheduled to hold a Hearing Session on October 1st, but an agenda for that session had been set before the Bair Hugger motion was filed. The Panel has yet to issue an agenda for its subsequent Hearing Session, which is scheduled for December 3rd.
If the Bair Hugger docket is centralized, all of the cases currently pending in federal courts and those filed in the future will be transferred to a single judge to undergo coordinated pretrial proceedings. The multidistrict litigation process is intended to avoid duplicative discovery and inconsistent court rulings among a large number of similar cases, and to preserve the resources of the court, parties and witnesses.