Bair Hugger Lawsuits Climb, as Federal Litigation Schedules Initial Conference

Published on February 1, 2016 by Sandy Liebhard

Hip and knee replacement infection lawsuits involving the 3M Bair Hugger forced air warming blanket are continuing to mount in courts around the country. Meanwhile, the federal multidistrict litigation established late last year to handle these claims is preparing to hold its first Pretrial Conference in just a little more than two weeks.

According to a Docket Report issued by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) on January 15th, at least 82 Bair Hugger lawsuits are pending so far in the U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota. The District is home to the Bair Hugger multidistrict litigation, which was established by the JPML in October to allow all federally-filed claims involving the device to undergo coordinated pretrial proceedings.

The Initial Transfer Order creating the litigation sent just 14 cases to Minnesota. However, all such claims filed in federal courts in the future are eligible for transfer to the centralized proceeding. Because the Bair Hugger has been used to warm millions of surgical patients since its introduction in 1987, plaintiffs’ attorneys believe that hundreds of similar cases will be filed in the future.

According to an Order issued by the Court on January 20th, the Initial Conference in the federal Bair Hugger litigation will be convened on February 18th at 9:30 a.m.

Bair Hugger Allegations

All of the complaints pending in the federal litigation were filed on behalf of hip and knee replacement patients who allegedly developed deep joint infections due to the use of the 3M Bair Hugger. Plaintiffs’ claim that the apparatus allows bacteria and contaminants from the operating room floor to be blown in the surgical wound, increasing the risk of infection.

“Rather than alter the design of their product or warn physicians of the dangers associated with the Bair Hugger, as numerous studies confirm, the Defendants have chosen to ‘double down’ on their efforts to promote their defective product,” the lawsuits charge.

The Multidistrict Litigation Process

Now that these cases have been consolidated before a single judge in the District of Minnesota, the lawsuits will be able to undergo coordinated pretrial proceedings, including discovery. This process will help avoid inconsistent court rulings across the docket and eliminate duplicative discovery, thereby preserving the resources of the Court, parties and witnesses.

In most multidistrict litigations, a handful of representative cases will be chosen for bellwether trials. While the outcomes of these trials are not binding on other cases in the litigation, they could provide insight into jury decisions in similar Bair Hugger lawsuits.

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