The federal court overseeing hundreds of deep joint infection lawsuits involving the 3M Bair Hugger has announced the sequence of the litigation’s bellwether trials. Those trials, which are slated to begin next February, could provide some clues as to how juries could rule in similar cases.
At least 1,988 Bair Hugger lawsuits are pending in the U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, where all federal claims involving the surgical warming system have been centralized for coordinated pretrial proceedings. In May, the court tapped eight representative lawsuits for a series of bellwether trials, two of which were stricken by the parties. Per an Amended Order dated June 15th, the remaining cases will proceed to trial as follows:
The first Bair Hugger trial will begin on February 26, 2018.
The Bair Hugger surgical warming system was brought to market by Arizant Healthcare, Inc. (acquired by 3M in 2010) in 1987. Today, more than 80% of the nation’s hospitals use the Bair Hugger to prevent hypothermia in patients undergoing orthopedic surgeries and other procedures. The system relies on a portable heater that draws in and warms ambient air. The warmed air is then transferred via a flexible tube to a single-use, inflatable blanket that has been draped over the patient.
Use of the Bair Hugger during surgery is thought to promote healing and lessen the likelihood of bleeding and other complications. However, plaintiffs pursuing lawsuits against 3M and Arizant claim that the forced air warming system suffers from design defects that may allow potentially contaminated air from the operating room floor to enter the sterile surgical site, greatly increasing the likelihood that patients undergoing hip or knee replacements will develop a post-operative deep-joint infection at the site of their implant. Plaintiffs further claim that 3M and Arizant have been aware of this this issue for years, but have failed to alter the design of the Bair Hugger or warn doctors of this risk.