Information on Hip, Knee Surgery Infection Risk from Bair Hugger Blankets to be Presented at “Science Day”

The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal 3M Bair Hugger blanket infection lawsuits has scheduled a “Science Day,” where each side will present information in a non-adversarial setting about the risks associated with using the warming system during hip and knee replacement surgery.

There are currently more than 160 hip surgery infection lawsuits and knee surgery infection lawsuits pending throughout the federal court system against 3M Company and its Arizant Healthcare subsidiary, each involving similar allegations that a Bair Hugger warming blanket caused bacteria or contaminants to enter the sterile surgical site.

Given the similar questions of fact and law presented in the cases, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistict Litigation (JPML) issued a transfer order in December, centralizing cases field throughout the federal court system before U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen in the District of Minnesota to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues that will arise in the cases, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.

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Bair Hugger Lawsuits

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


In a pretrial order (PDF) issued late last month, Judge Ericksen scheduled a “Science Day” for May 19, 2016, which is expected to last no longer than four hours.

While the court has not yet provided details about how the presentations will be handled, scheduling such educational tutorials for the court are common in complex medical device litigation, to help the judge understand the medical and scientific issues that will likely come up during the litigation. Typically non-adversarial presentations are made by experts for each side, which are off-the-record and not subject to cross examination.

Bair Hugger Blanket Infection Risks

The 3M Bair Hugger is a surgical warming blanket commonly used in recent years during hip replacement and knee replacement procedures, to help control body temperature during surgery. 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.

According to allegations raised in the complaints, the design of the forced-air warming blanket disrupts the laminar air flow in the operating room, allowing bacteria and contaminants from the floor to enter the surgical wound.

Plaintiffs claim that they have suffered severe and debilitating infections from the Bair Hugger blanket, often resulting in the need for multi-stage revision surgery, with placement of antibiotic spacers and extended periods of complete 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.

Following the “Science Day” and the conclusion of discovery in the pretrial proceedings before Judge Ericksen, it is expected that the first “bellwether” trial will begin in November 2017. While the outcome of this early trial date will not be binding on other cases, it will be closely watched by those involved in the litigation, as it will help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout a number of claims.


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