Bair Hugger Bellwether Trials for Hip, Knee Infection Lawsuits Expected to Begin in Nov. 2017
The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal hip infection lawsuits and knee infection lawsuits filed over the Bair Hugger forced-air warming blanket has scheduled the first bellwether trial to go before a jury on November 6, 2017.
There are currently at least 100 Bair Hugger lawsuits pending throughout the federal court system, each involving similar allegations that the surgical warming system increases the risk of severe and debilitating infections during hip replacement and knee replacement procedures.
Over the coming months, as lawyers continue to review and file cases for individuals nationwide, it is ultimately expected that thousands of cases will be consolidated as part of a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) that is centralized before U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen in the District of Minnesota.
The 3M Bair Hugger is a surgical warming blanket used in operating rooms throughout the United States, which is designed to help control body temperature during orthopedic surgery. According to allegations raised in the lawsuits, problems with the forced-air design have caused bacteria and other contaminants to enter the sterile surgical field during many procedures.
Plaintiffs claim that the manufacturer knew or should have known about the hip and knee surgical infection risk for years, yet failed to make design changes or provide warnings to the medical community about the risks associated with forced air warming.
According to a pretrial order (PDF) issued by Judge Ericksen, the parties will complete fact discovery into issues of general causation that apply to all claims by October 3, 2016. A small group of representative “bellwether” cases will then be selected by the parties in March 2017, which will be prepared for the first trial date in November 2017.
In complex product liability lawsuits, where a large number of claims raise similar questions or fact or law, it is common for a bellwether trial program to be established to help the parties gauge the relative strengths and weaknesses of their positions.
While the outcome of these early trials are not binding in other causes, they may predict how juries will react to evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation, and may help facilitate eventual hip and knee infection settlements with the manufacturer of the Bair Hugger system.
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