Bair Hugger Lawsuit Parties Unveil Bellwether Trial Nominations

Published on April 11, 2017 by Laurie Villanueva

The federal court overseeing pretrial proceedings for hundreds of Bair Hugger infection lawsuits is moving forward with plans to convene bellwether trials early next year. According to a Brief filed last week in the U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, the parties recently identified more than 30 cases as potential bellwether trial candidates, all of which will be subject to limited case-specific discovery pending selection of a Final Bellwether Trial pool.

Bellwether Trial Plan

More than 1,300 Bair Hugger lawsuits are currently pending in the U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, the majority of which were filed on behalf of hip and knee replacement patients who allegedly developed deep joint infections due to the use of the forced air warmer system during their implant surgery. Bellwether trial verdicts could provide insight into how other juries might rule in many of these cases.

According to the parties’ April 7th Brief, plaintiffs and defendants have each nominated 16 federally-filed Bair Hugger lawsuits from a group of 150 cases randomly selected by the Court earlier this year. Because one of their selections overlapped, the bellwether candidate list submitted to the Court consists of just 31 lawsuits. Each side also selected two Bair Hugger cases from the docket pending in Minnesota’s Ramsay County District Court. Because one of those cases also overlapped, a total of three selections were submitted to the Court.

Upon completion of case-specific discovery, the parties will choose eight representative cases from this list for a Final Bellwether Trial Pool. The first Bair Hugger trial will be convened on February 8, 2018, once bellwether case discovery, challenges to the admissibility of expert witness testimony and any dispositive motions have been completed.

Bair Hugger Infection Claims

The Bair Hugger is a surgical warming system that was brought to market by the 3M Company’s Arizant Healthcare, Inc. subsidiary in in 1987.  It is now used by a majority of the nation’s hospitals to prevent hypothermia in patients undergoing surgical procedures. The Bair Hugger system includes a portable heater and a single-use, inflatable blanket that is placed over or beneath the patient undergoing surgery. The heater draws in and warms air from the surrounding area, and forces it through the tube into the blanket.

Plaintiffs involved in the Bair Hugger litigation claim that the system suffers from design defects that allow potentially contaminated air from the operating room floor to come into contact with the sterile surgical site, greatly increasing the odds that patients undergoing a hip or knee replacement will develop an infection at the site of their implant. They further assert that 3M and Arizant have been aware of this issue for years, but have failed to modify the Bair Hugger or warn doctors of this risk.

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