Artificial Knee Infection Lawsuit Filed Over Problems with Forced Air Warming

According to allegations raised in a product liability lawsuit filed last week, a popular forced-air warming blanket used in operating rooms throughout the U.S. caused a Georgia man to suffer a severe infection from an artificial knee replacement.

The complaint (PDF) was filed by William McCormick in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota on February 12, over problems with the 3M Bair Hugger warming device.

The Bair Hugger is a type of warming blanket commonly used during orthopedic surgery to help control body temperature. However, the design of the forced-air system has been linked to reports of problems where it has been blamed for causing bacteria and contaminants from the operating room floor to enter the sterile surgical field during artificial knee and hip surgery.

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

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McCormick indicates that a 3M Bair Hugger was used during his total knee replacement in February 2014, alleging that the forced air warming disrupted the air flow of the operating room, which is designed blow cold air down from the ceiling and keep contaminants below the surgical wound.

“Because the Bair Hugger was used, contaminants were introduced to Plaintiff’s open surgical wound, resulting in an infection,” the lawsuit states. “Due to the infection, Plaintiff needed multiple additional surgical procedures to remove the implant and clean the infected area within less than six months from the original implant surgery, and Plaintiff continues to suffer substantial damages, including but not limited to impaired mobility.”

The claims are similar to those presented in a growing number of artificial knee infection lawsuits and artificial hip infection lawsuits filed in recent months by individuals throughout the United States, who describe similar problems following use of a Bair Hugger forced air warming blanket.

The lawsuits maintain that 3M Company has continued to market and promote the forced air system, despite knowledge about the infection risk and safer alternative designs that do not disrupt the sterile operating room air flow.

“Rather than alter the design of the product or warn physicians of the dangers associated with the Bair Hugger, as numerous studies confirm, the Defendant has chosen to ‘double down’ on efforts to promote the defective product,” according to the complaint, which outlines various false and misleading statements made by the manufacturer.

McCormick’s infection lawsuit will soon be transferred into a multidistrict litigation (MDL), which has been established for all cases filed throughout the federal court system over the Bair Hugger forced air warmer.

Since December 2015, the cases have been centralized before U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen in the District of Minnesota, given the similar questions of law and fact raised in the complaints.

There are currently at least 112 cases pending in the MDL. However, as hip and knee infection lawyers continue to review and file cases in the coming months and years, it is ultimately expected that several thousand lawsuits will be included in the Bair Hugger MDL.

As part of the coordinated pretrial proceedings, it is expected that Judge Ericksen will identify a small group of cases to 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 promoting settlement negotiations to resolve claims brought by individuals who have suffered severe deep joint infections.

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