Court Overseeing Federally-Filed Bair Hugger Lawsuits Orders Two Knee Replacement Infection Cases Prepped for Trial

Published on October 31, 2017 by Sandy Liebhard

The federal court overseeing thousands of product liability claims involving the 3M Company’s Bair Hugger forced air warming blanket has ordered two knee replacement infection lawsuits prepared for a bellwether trial that could begin as early as April 30, 2018.

The two cases, Skaar, et al. v. 3M Co., et al., 16-cv-2969 and Gareis v. 3M Co., et al., 16-cv-4187, were filed on behalf of individuals who developed deep joint infections allegedly related to the use of the Bair Hugger surgical warming system during their total knee replacement surgeries.

An Order issued in the U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, on October 20th, indicated that both Bair Hugger lawsuits will be governed by the following pretrial schedule.

  • Case specific discovery commenced on September 26, 2017;
  • Case specific discovery is to be completed by December 8, 2017
  • Initial expert reports and disclosures shall be exchanged by November 24, 2017
  • Rebuttal expert reports and disclosures shall be exchanged by December 15, 2017
  • Depositions of expert witnesses shall be completed by January 30, 2018
  • Case specific dispositive motions shall be filed by February 6, 2018

The Order directs that the cases be ready for trial by April 30, 2018, at which time the matter will be placed on the Court’s calendar.

Several bellwether trials are expected to be convened in the federal Bair Hugger litigation. Verdicts in these cases could provide clues as to how juries might rule in similar hip and knee replacement infection lawsuits.

Bair Hugger Infection Allegations

The Bair Hugger surgical warming system was brought to market by Arizant Healthcare in 1987. The apparatus consists of 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.

Today, more than 80% of the nation’s hospitals use the Bair Hugger forced air warmer blanket to help surgical patients maintain an optimal body temperature.

Court documents indicate that more than 3,800 Bair Hugger lawsuits are currently pending in the District of Minnesota.

Plaintiffs pursing these claims allege 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, increasing the risk that hip and knee replacement patients will develop potentially debilitating deep-joint infection following their surgery. Plaintiffs further allege that 3M and Arizant Healthcare have been aware of this this issue for years, but have so far failed to correct the Bair Hugger’s design flaws or warn doctors of its risk.

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