The federal court overseeing thousands of hip and knee infection lawsuits involving the 3M Company’s Bair Hugger forced air warmer blanket is preparing to select cases for the litigation’s second round of bellwether trials.
According to a Pretrial Order issued in the U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, on January 19th, the Court has already identified 100 randomly selected cases as possible bellwether trial candidates. The parties will each designate 16 cases from this group as “bellwether appropriate” by March 12, 2018.
On March 13th, the Court will select 12 Bair Hugger lawsuits from the pool of 32, giving each party the chance to strike two, thereby creating a group of 8 bellwether cases.
By March 27th, the parties are to propose a bellwether trial sequence as well as a schedule for preparing the first two cases for trial.
Bellwether trials are an important milestone in large, complex litigations. Verdicts in these cases could provide insight into how juries might decide similar Bair Hugger infection claims.
Court documents indicate that more than 4,200 Bair Hugger lawsuits are now pending in the District of Minnesota, all of which were filed on behalf of plaintiffs who developed serious and debilitating deep joint infections, allegedly related to the use of the forced air warmer system during their hip or knee replacement surgery.
The Bair Hugger surgical warming system was brought to market by Arizant Healthcare in 1987, which was acquired by the 3M Company in 2010. The forced air warming apparatus consists of a portable heater that is connected via flexible tubing to a disposable, inflatable blanket. Ambient air is drawn in and warmed by the heater, then forced through the tube into the blanket.
The Bair Hugger system is now used by the majority of the nation’s hospitals to help surgical patients maintain an optimal body temperature during procedures.
Plaintiffs involved in the federal Blair Hugger litigation claim that the system suffers from a design defect that allows potentially-contaminated air from the operating room floor to come into contact with an open surgical site, making it far more likely that patients undergoing joint replacement surgery will develop a post-op infection at the site of their implant. According to their complaints, these debilitating infections have resulted in the need for additional treatments and surgeries, as well as permanent disability and even death.
Bair Hugger lawsuits have already been selected for the federal litigation’s first round of bellwether trials. In October, the Court directed the parties to have the first two cases “trial ready” by April 30, 2018.