Knee and Hip Infection Lawyers Appointed to Leadership Roles in Bair Hugger MDL
As a growing number of hip infection lawsuits and knee infection lawsuits continue to be filed over problems linked to the Bair Hugger warming blanket, the federal judge presiding over the litigation has appointed a small group of plaintiffs’ lawyers to serve in various leadership roles during the coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.
The 3M Bair Hugger is a surgical warming blanket found in operating rooms throughout the U.S., which is often used during orthopedic hip and knee surgery to help maintain body temperature and improve surgical outcomes. However, lawsuits allege that problems with design of the forced air warming system have caused bacteria and other contaminants to enter the sterile surgical field, resulting in severe and debilitating infections following surgery.
Over the past few months, at least 100 Bair Hugger infection lawsuits have been filed throughout the federal court system, each involving similar claims that 3M Company sold an unreasonably dangerous and defective product. Plaintiffs allege 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.
As knee and hip infection lawyers continue to review cases for individuals throughout the U.S., it is expected that several thousand complaints may be filed nationwide over the coming year.
In December, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) centralized all 3M Bair Hugger infection claims pending throughout the federal court system before U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen in the District of Minnesota, as part of an MDL or multidistrict litigation.
Given the similar questions of fact and law raised in the complaints, the litigation is consolidated to reduce duplicative discovery, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the judicial system.
Following an initial status conference earlier this month to discuss the organizational structure for the Bair Hugger MDL, Judge Erickson issued an order (PDF) this week, which appoints a group of 21 different plaintiffs’ attorneys to different leadership roles.
Three attorneys have been designated for the plaintiffs as Co-Lead Counsel, one as Liaison Counsel, four were appointed to a Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee and an additional group of 13 lawyers were appointed to a Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee, which will conduct discovery, argue motions before the court and negotiate potential stipulations or settlements during the coordinated proceedings.
As the cases continue to move forward, it is expected that Judge Ericksen will establish a “bellwether” program, where a small group of representative cases will be prepared for early trial dates to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that may be repeated throughout the litigation. While the outcomes of these bellwether trials are not binding in other cases, they may help promote settlement negotiations to avoid the need for hundreds of individual trials to be scheduled in courts throughout the U.S.
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