Litigation Regarding Bair Hugger Warming Blankets Rises
3M Co. and subsidiary Arizant Healthcare Inc. stand accused of making various misrepresentations concerning the safety of their Bair Hugger forced air warming blanket. Plaintiffs in Bair Hugger warming blanket lawsuits contend that the device can spread bacterial contaminants during knee and hip replacement surgery, leading to serious deep-joint infection, injury, amputation and even death.
The warming blanket is typically draped over surgical patients to help prevent anesthesia-induced hypothermia and works by blowing warmed air through a flexible hose. An estimated 50,000 Bair Hugger blankets are presently used in hospitals and clinics across the nation.
According to allegations leveled in a recent lawsuit against the defendants, “The hot air produced by Bair Hugger accumulates under the surgical drape covering the patient and escapes below the level of the surgical table or at the head end of the surgical table…This escaped air creates airflow 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.”
Warming blanket spreads contaminants, argue claimants
Plaintiff William Lichlyter argued that his post-surgical infection was caused by the Bair Hugger unit, and became so severe that he had to endure three revision surgeries to remove his hip implant and a significant portion of his thigh muscle, which became necrotic. As a result, Lichlyter now has difficulty walking and continues to suffer impaired mobility.
Greg Colson of Washington State filed his lawsuit on November 3 of this year. Colson claims that his hip replacement surgery in 2013 was fouled by contaminants disseminated by the Bair Hugger blanket. Colson developed a rampant infection that required two additional operations to remove the dead tissue and clean the implant. Like Lichlyter, he says his infection and subsequent complications have severely affected his ability to walk.
The complaint joins at least eight others which were filed in federal court last week. Each contains similar allegations that the forced air warming unit brings up air from beneath the surgical table that is laden with harmful bacteria. The microbes then become embedded in the knee or hip replacement device causing a slew of medical complications and an increased risk of a Staphylococcus aureus infection.
Motion for pretrial centralization
The scope of potential litigation against 3M Co. and Arizant regarding Bair Hugger infections may be substantial according to William Lichlyter, who projects that hundreds of cases will be filed in the coming months. On August 21, 2015, Lichlyter petitioned the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) to coordinate all Bair Hugger lawsuits in Minnesota federal court, under MDL. The transfer would include at least 14 claims brought against the defendant to date. The purpose of multidistrict litigation is to streamline pretrial proceedings among similar cases, allowing both parties to share resources while reducing the chance of duplicative discovery.
Nine out of the 14 complaints have been filed in the District of Minnesota, making the venue “a superior choice,” according to the motion. The JPML will hear oral arguments regarding the petition on December 3, 2015.
Patients who developed deep-joint infections after surgery with a Bair Hugger warming blanket may have a viable claim for monetary compensation. To discuss the circumstances of your case with an experienced product liability attorney, contact The Sanders Firm toll-free at 1-800-FAIR-PLAY. Remember that statute of limitations apply for personal injury claims, making it imperative to start the legal process right away.
- Harris Martin, Plaintiff Asks JPML to Create MDL Docket for Bair Hugger Forced Air Warming Unit Cases in Minnesota http://harrismartin.com/article/19845/plaintiff-asks-jpml-to-create-mdl-docket-for-bair-hugger-forced-air-warming-unit-cases-in-minnesota/
- Reuters, Consolidation sought for Bair Hugger surgical blanket suits, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/08/26/products-bairhugger-lawsuits-idUSL1N1110L020150826