Philips CPAP Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed Over Fatal Case of Esophageal Cancer
The family of a Missouri man has filed a wrongful death lawsuit over a Philips CPAP machine recalled last year, indicating that years of exposure to toxic chemicals released by the sleep apnea device caused esophageal cancer, which resulted in death weeks before the recall was announced.
The complaint (PDF) was brought earlier this month by the surviving family members of Terrance P. Flynn, including his wife and four children, pursuing wrongful death damages from Koninklijke Philips and its North American subsidiaries as defendants, alleging that the manufacturers waited too long to notify the public that the millions of CPAP, BiPAP and mechanical ventilators carried serious health risks due to the use of polyester-based polyurethane sound abatement (PE-PUR) foam.
The PE-PUR foam in the recalled Philips CPAP machines was intended to reduce noise and vibrations while the device is used at night. However, federal health regulators now warn that the CPAP foam degrades and releases chemicals, gasses and debris into the device’s air pathways and the lungs of users. This resulted in a massive Philips CPAP recall announced in June 2021, impacting an estimated 15 million devices sold since 2009.
According to the Philips CPAP wrongful death lawsuit, Flynn was prescribed a Remstar Plus PR series device in November 2011, and continued to use the sleep apnea machine until at least May 2020. The device was one of the recalled Philips CPAP machines that contained PE-PUR foam, which was placed directly in the machine’s air pathways, causing toxic chemicals and debris to enter the lungs as the foam degrades and breaksdown.
Flynn was diagnosed with esophageal cancer from the Philips CPAP machine and died on May 31, 2021, only weeks before the recall was announced. However, it appears that the recall was delayed for years and much earlier actions should have been taken by the manufacturer, according to the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri on January 18.
An FDA inspection report released after the recall has found that Philips knew about the problem with the degrading sound abatement foam in BiPAP, CPAP and ventilators since at least 2015, indicating that emails exchanged with the foam supplier discussed the problem. However, no investigation was initiated or corrective actions were taken until a massive recall was announced in June 2021.
“At the time Defendants researched, developed, designed, manufactured, sold, distributed, marketed, and otherwise released the Device into the stream of commerce, Philips knew or should have known that the recalled devices, including the Device, presented an unreasonable danger to users when used as intended and in a reasonably anticipated manner,” the lawsuit by Flynn’s family states. “Specifically, at all relevant times, Defendants knew, or should have known, that the recalled devices, including the Device, pose a significant health risk in that the PE-PUR sound abatement foam incorporated in the devices may break down and release toxic particles or chemical emissions into a device’s air pathway, which a person may ingest or inhale resulting in significant injuries.”
The lawsuit presents claims of failure to warn, design defect, negligent failure to warn, negligent design defect and breach of warranty, seeking both compensatory and punitive damages. It joins dozens of similar Philips CPAP lawsuits filed in recent months throughout the U.S. court system, each raising similar allegations that exposure to the deteriorating Philips sound abatement foam causes cancer, severe respiratory problems and other health complications.
Given common questions of fact and law raised in the litigation over recalled Philips CPAP devices, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) decided late last year to centralize all federal cases before Senior U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti in the Western District of Pennsylvania for pretrial proceedings as part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL), where the parties are engaging in coordinated discovery and preparing to select a small group of representative cases for a series of bellwether trials.
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