Lawsuits Over Hip and Knee Infections from Bair Hugger Warming Blanket Begin to Mount
A growing number of individuals throughout the country are now filing hip infection lawsuits and knee infection lawsuits against 3M and its Arizant subsidiary, over the use of a Bair Hugger forced-air warming (FAW) blanket during their joint replacement surgery.
Last week, at least eight new claims were filed in the federal court system, each involving nearly identical allegations that the device used to control body temperature during surgery may cause bacteria from the operating room floor to enter the sterile surgical field, resulting in severe and debilitating deep joint infections following a hip or knee surgery.
According to a complaint (PDF) filed on Friday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, Maryland resident Alice Campbell indicates that she suffered a Staphylococcus aureus (staph) infection following hip replacement surgery where a Bair Hugger was used.
As a result of the infection following hip surgery, Campbell indicates that she has required several additional procedures over the past three years to clean the hip, and continues to require treatment for the infection.
“The hot air produced by the Bair Hugger FAW accumulates under the surgical drape covering the patient and escapes from under the surgical drape below the level of the surgical table or at the end of the surgical table,” according to the lawsuit filed by Campbell. “This escaped air creates air flow currents that flow against the downward air flow of the operating room. As this warmed air rises, it deposits bacteria from the floor of the surgical room into the surgical site.”
Similar Claims Raised in Other Bair Hugger Infection Lawsuits
Nearly identical claims have been raised in dozens of other Bair Hugger warming blanket lawsuits filed in recent weeks, each alleging that 3M and Arizant have known about the infection risks for years.
Rather than making attempts to redesign their product or warn healthcare providers about the risk of hip and knee infections from Bair Hugger warming blankets, plaintiffs point out that the manufacturer has taken active steps to conceal the infection and discredit studies that may impact sales of their product.
In another complaint (PDF), filed on November 4, Texas resident Larry Leroux indicates that he suffered an infection following right total knee replacement surgery on November 5, 2013, which was allegedly caused by contaminants entering the open surgical wound as a result of the Bair Hugger blanket. Due to the resulting infection, LeRoux had to undergo three additional surgeries and the implant had to be removed only nine months later, claiming that he has suffered permanent injuries, including impaired mobility, due to the infection.
Washington resident Greg Colson filed a similar complaint (PDF) on November 3, alleging that contaminants were introduced into his open surgical wound during a left hip replacement surgery in 2013. As a result of the warming blanket infection, Colson indicates that he required two additional surgical procedures to remove the implant and clean the infected area within the following nine months, and that he has been left with impaired mobility, which makes even the simple movement of walking a challenge.
“Any reasonable and competent physician would not use a Bair Hugger in orthopedic implant surgery if they were fully apprised of the dangers and risks associated with doing so,” according to the complaint filed by Colson. “However, through misrepresentations to the public, the medical community, and the FDA, the Defendant actively and knowingly concealed the propensity of these devices to cause infection in orthopedic implant surgeries.”
JPML Considering Whether to Centralize Forced-Air Warming Blanket Cases
Amid the growing number of cases, a motion was filed with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) in August, seeking to consolidate all warming blanket infection lawsuits pending against 3M and Arizant throughout the federal court system.
A group of plaintiffs have requested that the cases be centralized before one judge in the District of Minnesota, as part of a federal MDL, or multidistrict litigation. The process is designed to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues in the lawsuits, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.
3M and Arizant have opposed the establishment of a Bair Hugger infection lawsuit MDL, claiming that there’s no basis in science for the claims and that the cases are too individualized to justify centralized pretrial proceedings.
In a response in support (PDF) filed late last month by one of the many plaintiffs who have brought cases, it is noted that there is a high probability that “hundreds of cases” will be filed in the future, as hip and knee infection lawyers continue to review and file claims on behalf of individuals nationwide.
The U.S JPML is scheduled to consider oral arguments on the motion during an upcoming hearing in New Orleans on December 3.
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