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According to allegations raised in a product liability lawsuit filed against 3M Company and its Arizant Healthcare subsidiary, problems with a Bair Hugger Forced Air Warming System used during orthopedic surgery resulted in a severe and disabling deep joint infection.
The complaint (PDF) was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota on June 12, by Jon Gage and his wife, Naomi.
Gage indicates that he underwent joint replacement surgery in March 2014, during which a 3M Bair Hugger Forced Air Warming System was used to maintain body temperature during the procedure.
As a result of an allegedly defective and dangerous design of the warming blanket, Gage indicates that contaminants were introduced into the surgical site, resulting in an infection that ultimately required him to undergo a two-staged revision surgery in June and September of 2015.
“Contaminants introduced into Plaintiff’s open surgical wound as a direct and proximate result of use of the Bair Hugger during the subject surgery resulted in Plaintiff developing a periprosthetic joint infection, also known as a deep joint infection,” the lawsuit states. “Plaintiffs’ medical records indicate Methicillin-Sensitive Staphylococcus Aureus was discovered.”
The case joins a growing number of knee infection lawsuits and hip infection lawsuits filed against 3M Company in recent months over the Bair Hugger warmer, which is commonly found in operating rooms nationwide. Gage and other plaintiffs allege that the design of the device causes bacteria and other contaminants from the operating room floor to rise up and enter the open surgical wound, potentially resulting in difficult to treat deep joint infections.
The 3M Bair Hugger blanket involves the use of forced-air blown into an inflatable blanket, which is placed over a patient during surgery to control body temperature and reduce the risk of complications. However, complaints allege that the design of the system disrupts the laminar air flow of the operating room, citing studies that have found substantial increases in the temperature and number of particles over the surgical site when forced-air warming is used. In addition, many of the cases allege that the Bair Hugger filter system is insufficient and unreasonably dangerous.
Deep joint infection lawsuits over the surgical warmer claim that 3M Company has known about the risks for years, yet failed to make design changes or provide warnings to the medical community. In addition, plaintiffs allege that there are safer alternative warming blanket designs that do not carry the same risks.
Given the similar questions of fact and law presented in the cases, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistict Litigation (JPML) previously established coordinated pretrial proceedings for the federal litigation, centralizing cases brought nationwide before U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen in the District of Minnesota 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 hip and knee infection lawyers continue to review and file additional cases in the coming months and years, it is ultimately expected that several thousand claims involving severe and debilitating deep tissue infections may be brought on behalf of individuals throughout the United States.
Judge Ericksen has indicated that the first Bair Hugger bellwether trial will commence on February 8, 2018, which are designed to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain testimony and evidence that will be repeated throughout the litigation. While the outcome of these trials will not be binding on other claims, they may have a substantial impact on hip and knee infection settlements that 3M would need to reach to avoid the need for hundreds of individual trials in courts nationwide.