Lawyers Seek Leadership Roles in Litigation Over Bair Hugger Warming Blanket Infections
With an initial pretrial conference set up for next week before the federal presiding over all Bair Hugger infection lawsuits, a number of plaintiffs’ lawyers have applied to serve in various leadership roles in the recently established multidistrict litigation (MDL).
In December, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) transferred all product liability lawsuits over surgical infections from the 3M Bair Hugger warming blanket to the District of Minnesota for coordinated pretrial proceedings before U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen.
The Bair Hugger is a surgical warming blanket commonly used in recent years during hip replacements and knee replacements to help control body temperature during the proceedure. However, a growing number of lawsuits over the warming blanket allege that individuals suffered severe and debilitating deep joint infections after the Bair Hugger caused bacteria and contaminants to enter the surgical site.
There are currently at least 82 hip infection lawsuits and knee infection lawsuits pending before Judge Erickson to reduce duplicative discovery, avoid conflicting rulings from different courts and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the judicial system. However, it is widely expected that hundreds, if not thousands, of additional cases will be added to the litigation over the coming months and years.
An initial status conference has been scheduled by Judge Erickson for February 18, at which time lawyers involved in the lawsuits will meet with the MDL court to review the organizational structure of the litigation as it continues to grow.
A number of plaintiffs’ lawyers involved in the warming blanket infection lawsuits have already filed applications to be appointed to various leadership roles in the cases, where they would take certain actions during the coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings that benefit all individuals who have filed a complaint. It is expected that selection Plaintiffs’ Lead Counsel, Liaison Counsel and the creation of a Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee (PSC) will be addressed at the initial conference next week.
3M Bair Hugger Warming Blanket Infection Problems
In recent years, the 3M Bair Hugger surgical warmer has become a popular device that is found in most operating rooms throughout the United States, with estimates suggesting that there are more than 50,00 devices in use nationwide, which have been used on millions of patients.
According to allegations raised in the infection lawsuits, problems with the design of the warming blanket cause bacteria and contaminants from the operating room floor to enter the sterile surgical field, increasing the risk of deep joint infection. In many cases, individuals who suffer an infection following hip or knee surgery experience debilitating complications, often requiring multiple revision surgeries, antibiotic spacers and extended periods of immobility.
Lawsuits over the warming blanket claim that the manufacturer has known about the hip and knee surgical infection risk for years, yet failed to make design changes or provide warnings to the medical community.
As part of any coordinated pretrial 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 promote settlement negotiations to resolve cases brought by individuals who have experienced problems.
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