Surgical Warming Blanket Lawsuit Centralization to be Considered by JPML on December 3

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation is scheduled to hear oral arguments on December 3 over whether to centralize and consolidate all Bair Hugger surgical warming blanket lawsuits filed by individuals who allege the device caused them to suffer severe and debilitating infections.

In recent months, a growing number of hip infection lawsuits and knee infection lawsuits have been brought against 3M Company throughout the federal court system, alleging that the company’s forced-air surgical warming device increases the risk that bacteria and contaminants from the operating room floor may enter the sterile surgical site.

In August, plaintiffs involved in the cases filed a request to centralize the surgical warming blanket lawsuits before one federal judge for coordinated pretrial proceedings, as part of a federal MDL, or multidistrict litigation.

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Bair Hugger Lawsuits

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

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The U.S. JPML is being asked to transfer several dozen lawsuits pending throughout the federal court system to the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues, avoid conflicting rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.

The Bair Hugger surgical warming blanket has been widely used in most hospitals throughout the United States in recent years during orthopedic surgery for hip and knee replacements.

While the device is designed to blow hot air onto the patient to help control body temperature and reduce the risk of surgical complications, plaintiffs allege that the design disrupts the laminar air flow in the operating room, increasing the risk that patients will suffer a deep joint infection during the procedure.

3M has opposed establishing an MDL for the Bair Hugger infection lawsuits, arguing that the cases have no basis in science and that each lawsuit will involve too many individual characteristics to warrant consolidation for pretrial proceedings before one judge.

According to a hearing session order (PDF) issued last week, the U.S. JPML will consider oral arguments on the motion at the Hale Boggs Federal Building in New Orleans, Louisiana on December 3.

There are more than 50,000 Bair Hugger surgical warming blankets in hospitals nationwide, and the devices have been used on millions of patients. The lawsuits claim that the manufacturer has known about infection risk from forced air warming blankets for years, yet failed to make design changes or provide warnings to the medical community.

Over the coming weeks and months, as hip and knee infection lawyers continue to review cases for individuals who have experienced problems following surgery where a Bair Hugger was used, it is ultimately expected that hundreds, if not thousands, of infection cases over the surgical warming blanket will be filed on behalf if individuals throughout the country.

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