Surgical Warming Blanket Caused Hip Infection, Revision Surgery, Lawsuit Claims
The use of a Bair Hugger surgical warming blanket during hip replacement surgery caused a Kentucky man to develop a deep joint infection, requiring extensive treatment and removal of the implant, according allegations raised in a product liability lawsuit recently filed against 3M Company and its Arizant Healthcare subsidiary.
The complaint (PDF) was filed last week by James and Aleta Clontz in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, alleging that the design of the Bair Hugger forced-air warming system during a joint replacement in October 2009 introduced contaminants into James Clontz’s open surgical wound.
Clontz indicates that as a result of the hip infection caused by the surgical warming blanket, it was necessary that he undergo multiple surgeries and wound treatments, including the placement of an antibiotic spacer for several months, continuous intravenous antibiotics and revision of the hip replacement implant one year after the original surgery. Aleta Clontz presents claims for loss of the services of her husband, as well as loss of consortium.
The 3M Bair Hugger is a surgical warming system found in most operating rooms throughout the U.S., using forced-air blown into an inflatable blanket that is placed over a patient during surgery to control body temperature. However, the device has been linked to a large number of deep joint infections similar to the one experienced by Clontz in recent years.
This new complaint raises nearly identical allegations to those presented in nearly 500 other Hip infection lawsuits and knee infection lawsuits filed throughout the federal court system, which claim that the design of the Bair Hugger surgical warming system disrupts the laminar air flow of the operating room, ineffectively filters air blown onto the body during surgery and presents an unreasonable risk.
Plaintiffs cite studies that have found substantial increases in the temperature and number of particles over the surgical site when forced-air warming is used, arguing that reasonable alternative surgical warming blanket designs are available to control body temperature during hip replacements or knee replacements, without the use of forced air.
Clontz filed his case directly into a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL), which has been established in Minnesota for all Bair Hugger infection lawsuits brought throughout the federal court system. Given the similar questions of fact and law presented, cases are consolidated for pretrial proceedings before U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues that will arise in the cases, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.
As part of the Bair Hugger MDL proceedings before Judge Ericksen, it is expected that a small group of cases will be prepared for early trial dates. Known as “bellwether” cases, the outcomes are designed to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that may be repeated throughout the litigation, potentially promoting settlement negotiations to resolve cases brought by individuals who have experienced problems.
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