The federal court overseeing coordinated pretrial proceedings for hundreds of hip and knee infection lawsuits involving the 3M Bair Hugger forced air warming blanket has selected eight individual cases for the proceeding’s first bellwether trials. Those trials are expected to begin next February.
More than 1,700 Bair Hugger lawsuits have been centralized in the U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota. The proceeding’s bellwether trials are intended to act as “test cases,”as their verdicts could provide some insight into how other juries will rule in similar cases.
According to a Pretrial Order dated May 30th, the cases selected for the litigation’s Final Bellwether Trial Pool were drawn from a group of 16 lawsuits, half of which were proposed by the defense and half by plaintiffs. The court narrowed down those submissions to eight for the final pool:
The parties have each been given the option to strike one of these cases.
The Bair Hugger system was brought to market by the 3M Company’s Arizant Healthcare, Inc. subsidiary in 1987. A majority of the nation’s hospitals now use the forced air warming system to prevent hypothermia in patients undergoing surgery, including hip and knee replacements. The Bair Hugger system consists of 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 pursuing Bair Hugger lawsuits assert that the apparatus 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 a deep joint infection at the site of the 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.