Centralization Sought for Lawsuits Over SoClean CPAP Sanitizing Machines

SoClean CPAP sanitizer lawsuits allege that dangerous levels of ozone are released, increasing the risk of respiratory problems for users

With a small, but growing number of lawsuits over SoClean CPAP cleaning devices being filed throughout the federal court system, alleging that the devices emit toxic levels of ozone gas, a motion has been filed to consolidate the claims before one judge for coordinated pretrial proceedings.

There are currently at least nine SoClean CPAP sanitizer lawsuits pending in U.S. District courts throughout the country, each involving similar claims that the CPAP cleaning devices release dangerous levels of ozone, which can lead to coughing, nasal irritation, headaches, asthma attacks and other respiratory problems.

SoClean devices generate ozone to sterilize and deodorize CPAP breathing machines, which are used treat sleep apnea. However, the lawsuits note that to be effective at sanitizing the devices, SoClean devices must emit levels of ozone that are higher than can be safely tolerated by humans or animals.

Given that millions of these devices were sold throughout the U.S., the number of SoClean CPAP sanitizing lawsuits is expected to continue to rise in the coming months and years.

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On October 13, plaintiffs Larry Hunter-Blank and William Wheeler filed a motion to transfer (PDF) with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML), proposing that all lawsuits over SoClean CPAP sanitizing machines be centralized in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas, before U.S. District Judge Holly Teeter.

Known as an MDL, or multidistrict litigation, such consolidation is common in complex product liability litigation, where a large number of claims have been presented by former users of the same device, alleging similar injuries. Centralizing the SoClean CPAP lawsuits would help avoid duplicative discovery, prevent contradictory rulings from different judges, and serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses, and courts, according to the plaintiffs.

“The underlying facts concerning the manufacture, advertising, and sale of the SoClean ozone cleaning device are uniform throughout the proposed class of Plaintiffs in the Actions filed in various federal courts across the country,” the motion states. “Indeed, the issue of whether the several million SoClean CPAP cleaning devices have been rendered worthless as a result of the creation of ozone (O³) in the devices, entitles all purchasers and users to economic damages, is present in all of the Actions.”

Philips CPAP Recall May Be Related to SoClean Problems

The SoClean lawsuits emerged in the wake of a massive Philips CPAP recall issued in July, due to problems with the sound abatement foam used in millions of devices sold nationwide, which may break down and release toxic particles and debris directly into the machine’s air pathways.

There are now hundreds of Philips CPAP lawsuits and class action claims being filed against the makers of the sleep apnea machine, alleging that users were exposed to an increased of cancer, severe respiratory problems and other health complications after breathing chemicals and gases released as the foam breaks down.

At the time of the recall, Philips suggested that use of SoClean and other similar cleaning devices involving ozone and UV light may exacerbate the foam’s degradation.

In late February, the FDA issued safety communication about CPAP cleaning products like SoClean, months before the Philips recall, indicating users were experiencing respiratory complications after using certain ozone gas or ultraviolet (UV) light cleaning devices to disinfect or sanitize machines. However, some lawsuits now indicate that these complaints may have actually been side effects of Philips CPAP foam degrading.

On October 12, SoClean filed a lawsuit against Philips, claiming its products are being used as a scapegoat for respiratory problems linked to Philips use of toxic sound abatement foam, which it claims is the real cause of recalled Philips breathing machine users suffering respiratory problems. The lawsuit alleges Philips is trying to deflect blame to SoClean to cover up what it calls a “glaring design flaw” due to the use of the PE-PUR foam.

The U.S. JPML has already established consolidated pretrial proceedings for the Philips CPAP recall litigation, centralizing the claims before U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Savage in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

While SoClean has not yet filed a response to this new request to established an MDL for lawsuits over their CPAP ozone cleaning products, the panel is expected to schedule oral arguments to be heard during an upcoming hearing scheduled for January 30, 2022. The JPML will then determine whether centralized management is appropriate at this early stage of the SoClean litigation, and the most appropriate forum for the pretrial proceedings.

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