Personal injury claims involving the 3M Bair Hugger surgical warming blanket continue to mount in the centralized proceeding now underway in the U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota. According to a report issued by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML), there were at least 457 Bair Hugger lawsuits pending in the proceeding as of July 15, 2016.
That represents an increase of more than 100 filings since June 15th, when the JPML reported 340 pending cases.
All of the Bair Hugger lawsuits included in the multidistrict litigation were filed on behalf of hip and knee replacement patients who allegedly developed serious deep joint infections following implant surgery that involved the use of the forced air warming blanket. Plaintiffs claim that the device, which is used by thousands of hospitals to prevent hypothermia during surgical procedures, suffers from a design defect that allows potentially contaminated air from the operating room floor to come into contact with the sterile surgical field. They further assert that this greatly increasing the chance that patients receiving implantable devices will develop a serious post-operative joint infection.
The centralized Bair Hugger litigation was established in December 2015 to allow all federally-filed cases to undergo coordinated pretrial proceedings. At the time, just 14 forced air warming lawsuits were transferred to Minnesota. However, plaintiffs who had proposed centralization of those cases suggested that hundreds of similar claims would eventually be filed. This latest report from the JPML would appear to confirm their speculation.
The multidistrict litigation is now well underway, with discovery moving forward. According to an Order dated July 8th, the Court has approved protocols pertaining to the computer assisted review of electronically stored information produced during the discovery process. Also known as predictive coding or technology-assisted review, this a process that utilizes computer software to electronically classify documents based on input from expert reviewers. The benefits of computer assisted review include greater accuracy compared to keyword search or manual review, reduced costs, and more rapid document delivery time frames.
The Court’s calendar indicates that the proceeding’s next Status Conference is to be convened on Thursday, July 21st at 11:30 a.m.