Federally-filed Bair Hugger lawsuits will undergo coordinated pre-trial proceedings in the U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, following an Order handed down Friday by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML).
The Panel’s December 11th Order initially transfers 14 forced air warmer lawsuits involving the 3M Bair Hugger surgical warming blanket to the District of Minnesota. However, the document notes that more than 50 additional claims are now pending in federal courts around the U.S., all of which are eligible for transfer as well. In addition, any new cases filed in the future will likely be sent to Minnesota.
All of the cases transferred to the new litigation were filed on behalf of hip and knee replacement patients who allegedly developed post-operative infections following implant procedures that utilized the Bair Hugger forced air warming system. Marketed by the 3M Company and its Arizant Healthcare, Inc. subsidiary, the Bair Hugger is used to help patients maintain an optimal body temperature during surgery. However, plaintiffs claim that the device suffers from a design defect that alters the flow of air in the operating room, and that can expose the sterile surgical site to bacteria and other contaminants from the floor.
In agreeing to centralize the federal Bair Hugger docket in Minnesota, the JPML found that all of the pending actions involve common questions of fact, and that centralization will serve the convenience of the parties, courts and witnesses. The Panel also found that the lawsuits present common issues concerning the development, manufacturing, regulatory approval and marketing of the Bair Hugger, and that centralization will eliminate duplicative discovery, prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings, and conserve the resources of the parties and judiciary.
The District of Minnesota was selected for the new litigation because 3M and Arizant are headquartered in the state, and many witnesses and relevant documents are likely to be found there. In addition, nine of the forced air warmer lawsuits filed thus far are pending in that jurisdiction, as are 35 potential tag-along actions.
The Bair Hugger forced air warming blanket is considered the standard by thousands of U.S. hospitals., and has been used to warm millions of surgical patients. Not surprisingly, some legal experts believe that this litigation could eventually include hundreds of cases.