Bair Hugger Knee Replacement Infection Lawsuits to be Ready for Trial by April 30, 2018

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As part of the coordinated litigation for all product liability claims over the 3M Bair Hugger warming blanket, two lawsuits involving knee replacement infections allegedly caused by the forced air system will be ready for trial to begin by late April 2018, according to a recent court order.

There are currently more than 3,800 3M Bair Hugger lawsuits pending in the federal court system, which are centralized before U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen in the District of Minnesota for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings, as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation.

Each of the complaints raise similar allegations that 3M Company and its Arizant Healthcare subsidiary sold a dangerous and defectively designed warming blanket, which has been widely used by hospitals nationwide during hip and knee replacement procedures.

Plaintiffs claim that the Bair Hugger forced air warming system disrupts the laminar airflow of the operating room, causing bacteria and other contaminants from the floor to enter the area around the open surgical site. Severe and debilitating deep joint infections have been linked to use of the Bair Hugger blanket, typically resulting in the need for multiple surgical procedures and lengthy infection treatment.

As part of the coordinated pretrial proceedings in the MDL, Judge Ericksen established a “bellwether” program, where a group of 150 randomly selected cases have been prepared for a series of early trial dates, which are designed to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout many of the cases currently pending in the MDL.

In an order (PDF) issued on October 20, the Court outlined the pretrial schedule for two specific knee replacement infection cases that will complete case-specific discovery and dispositive motions over the next few months, and be ready for trial to begin on or after April 30, 2018.

The selected trial cases were filed by Louis Gareis, of South Carolina, and Kurtis Skarr and his wife, Debbie, of Idaho. Both lawsuits indicate that the plaintiffs suffered infections caused by the use of the Bair Hugger forced air warming systems used during total knee replacement surgery.

According to the scheduling order, case specific discovery on the two cases began in late September, with a scheduled completion date of December 8. The order calls for deposition of expert witnesses to be completed by January 30, 2018, and case specific dispositive motions to be filed by February 6, 2018. After April 30, trial dates will be placed on the Court’s calendar.

Although the outcome of the Bair Hugger bellwether trials will not be binding on other cases in the litigation, they will be closely watched by lawyers involved in the cases and may help facilitate eventual hip and knee infection settlements to avoid the need for hundreds of individual trials in courts nationwide.

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