JPML to Consider Centralization Arguments for Bair Hugger Lawsuits Over Hip, Knee Infections

A panel of federal judges is scheduled to hear oral arguments tomorrow over whether to consolidate all hip infection lawsuits and knee infection lawsuits filed over the use of a 3M Bair Hugger warming blanket.

In August, a motion was filed with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) seeking to centralize all Bair Hugger lawsuits over hip and knee infections before one judge to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues in the cases, avoid contradictory pretrial rulings and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.

At that time, there were at least 14 product liability lawsuits pending against 3M Company and it’s Arizant Healthcare subsidiary, which each raise nearly identical allegations that problems with the Bair Hugger warming blanket caused individuals to suffer severe and debilitating infections following orthopedic joint replacement surgery.

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Bair Hugger Lawsuits

Bair Hugger warming blankets may be the cause of knee or hip surgery infections.


The Bair Hugger warming blanket is commonly used during most orthopedic joint replacement procedures in hospitals throughout the U.S., providing forced air warming to help control body temperature during surgery. However, lawsuits allege that the device disrupts the laminar flow of the operating room, allowing bacteria and other contaminants from the floor to enter the surgical site.

Plaintiffs point to studies that indicate use of forced air warming blankets cause substantial increases in the number of particles in the air near a surgical wound and higher rates of knee or hip infections following joint replacement surgery.

Dozens of additional cases have been initiated since the original motion was filed, and as hip and knee infection lawyers continue to review and file claims, it is ultimately expected that there will be hundreds, if not thousands, of complaints pending in U.S. District Courts nationwide.

3M has opposed creation of a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) for the Bair Hugger cases, suggesting that the claims have no basis in science and that the lawsuits have to many individual characteristics to warrant consolidation. However, a number of plaintiffs have filed briefs in support of the centralization.

“As a result of [3M]’s marketing, the Bair Hugger system has been adopted by hospitals and other medical centers and has gained widespread use nationwide in the vast majority of such procedures,” argued plaintiffs George Elic Wainner and Sallie E. Cagel in a brief (PDF) filed November 20. “Consequently, consolidation of these actions due to the sheer number of individuals who have likely been exposed and suffered infections due to the defective Bair Hugger system is necessary to efficiently and effectively manage this litigation.”

The U.S. JPML is scheduled to hear oral arguments at a hearing on December 3, at the Hale Boggs Federal Building in New Orleans, Louisiana.


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