Since injured patients were informed that their life-threatening infection was a result of their surgeon using a defective medical device, thousands have filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer. Research studies have revealed that the Bair Hugger blanket-like warming system released contaminants into the air inside the operating room which invaded the patient's surgical site. Most of these lawsuits have been merged in MDL (multidistrict litigation) cases, that were significantly different in court than class action lawsuits.
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC represents injured patients who were injured after undergoing a surgical procedure used the Bair Hugger warming blanket. Our law firm has successfully prosecuted cases for our clients who injuries are the result of another's negligent actions. Our attorneys are available to answer any legal questions on how to receive the monetary compensation you deserve if your injuries were caused by product liability, defective equipment, or medical malpractice. Should you have additional questions, we invite you to contact our office for a free review of your legal rights.
Class Action Lawsuits v. Multidistrict Litigation Cases
There are significant differences between a class action lawsuit and multidistrict litigation (MDL) lawsuit resolved in federal court.
Class Action Lawsuit
Plaintiffs can join a class action lawsuit where hundreds or thousands of injured victims participate together in a single court case. If the jury returns a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs, each victim will receive an equal split of the total amount of the award. Of course, attorneys' fees and other case-associated costs will be deducted first.
The case is typically presented with evidence that is shared by all plaintiffs with no unique circumstances that might be revealed in an individual lawsuit. Usually, each plaintiff participating in a class action suit will not receive a substantial settlement and the plaintiffs suffering significant injuries get about the same compensation as those with minor injuries.
Typically, the courts will decide to resolve the hundreds or thousands of cases through a class action suit if there is a sufficient number of plaintiffs where it would be impractical to hear individual court cases. Additionally, every plaintiff should have approximately the same type of evidence caused by similar injuries where the interests of the entire group of injured patients are well represented in a single trial.
Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) Lawsuit
The federal courts using MDL litigation procedure to merge dozens, hundreds, or thousands of civil cases where every plaintiff has similar issues. However, unlike a class action suit, MDL focuses primarily on discovery (pretrial proceedings) to move the process through the courts more efficiently and quickly. In MDL lawsuits, the litigation promotes consistency in grouping similar cases together that will eventually be resolved individually in different trials or negotiated settlements.
For example, thousands of plaintiffs may need to obtain the testimony of the product manufacturer's Quality Control Director who oversaw making the defective device. Rather than forcing the quality director to appear and thousands of different cases nationwide, they can appear in a single deposition or appear in just one court case and provide evidence for all the remaining lawsuits.
In addition to sharing common legal issues and factual evidence together during the pretrial hearing (Discovery) phase, the plaintiffs and defendants can reduce litigation costs. However, multidistrict litigation allows patients who have suffered significant severe harm caused by the defective device can obtain an adequate settlement compared to those with minor injuries. Every lawsuit held in MDL court will be tried as a separate case where every plaintiff can negotiate an individual settlement or present evidence at trial based on its unique merits.
Also, the federal MDL court will conduct “bellwether” trials where few plaintiffs will have individual trials that will accurately identify the strength of the remaining cases. If the device manufacturer loses most of their bellwether cases, they may choose to begin settlement negotiations with the remaining hundreds or thousands of plaintiffs to control their losses. If most of the plaintiffs lose their bellwether case, their attorneys may recommend settling the case instead of presenting evidence in front of a jury.
History of the Bair Hugger Warming Blanket
In 1987, millions of surgeries were successful because surgeons used a Bair Hugger forced-air warming blanket. 3M bought Arizant Healthcare, Inc. the patent owner and manufacturer of the Bair Hugger device. Today, 80% of all hospitals in the United States use the device in surgical procedures, primarily for hip and knee replacement surgeries.
The device was originally invented by Dr. Scott Augustine back in the 1980s who has since testified that his product creates a significant increase in potential risk of life-threatening infection. His design uses inflatable tubes that force heated air into the warming blanket to maintain a patient's core body temperature during the surgical procedure.
In 2011, a patient developed a life-threatening infection after undergoing a surgical procedure that required an additional 15 surgeries to control the problem. Two years later, the injured patient filed the initial Bair Hugger warming blanket lawsuit. His's attorney sought $1 million in compensation to cover his damages. The plaintiff' lawsuit was folowed by another dozen suits filed in federal court over the next two years.
In December 2015, The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (J.P.M.L.) consolidated 14 Bair Hugger warming blanket lawsuits to be heard in federal court. Two years later in August 2017, the federal judge in the multidistrict litigation case in the District of Minnesota selected five bellwether trials to be heard individually. In May 2018, jurors in one Minneapolis bellwether case held for the defendant. The following month, another 4900 plaintiffs filed Bair Hugger lawsuits, of which 4531 of those were filed in MDL court.
In 2018, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) issued a press release stating they 3M Bair Hugger Normothermia System had been recalled due to their susceptibility “to unintended occlusion of airflow resulting in limited or partial inflation during use.” The voluntary recall was initiated by 3M and stated in a letter dated January 19, 2018, identified as an “URGENT MEDICAL DEVICE RECALL” identifying the product and ordering a removal from the hospital's inventory. The medical facilities were informed to “DO NOT USE” due to serious health concerns.
The MDL Judge
The federal trial court described in detail the similarities between the thousands of claims filed in the District of Minnesota court. Judge Joan Erickson wrote that:
“This convection stirs the operating-room air, allegedly lifting squames [skin flake or scale] and preventing them from safely settling away from the surgical wound. The parties agree that squames can carry skin bacteria, some of which can cause deep-joint infection. Plaintiffs also have a theory about bacteria that reside within the Bair Hugger's central unit or hose. These bacteria allegedly get out riding the forced air, thereby increasing the bacterial threat within the operating-room air.”
Building a Case for Compensation
Many of the attorneys working on behalf of their clients have filed lawsuits alleging that the victims developed severe infections after undergoing a surgery involving a Bair Hugger warming blanket. Many of the plaintiffs involved in these cases had a hip or knee replacement that resulted in a deep joint infection that was challenging to control. Of the injured patients that did not die from the infections, many suffered:
- Ongoing hospitalization for IV (intravenous) antibiotic treatments
- The loss of a limb through amputation
- The need for multiple follow-up surgeries
Their lawsuits are based on the development of infections that were resistant to antibiotics including Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). This infection can cause skin eruptions, pneumonia, and life-threatening bloodstream infections (sepsis).
Will a Bair Hugger Class Action Suit Ever Be Filed?
The recent attention and controversy around the Bair Hugger blanket has made many wonder if there will be a class action lawsuit surrounding its usage. However, with the consolidation of a multidistrict litigation (MDL) involving Bair Huggers and the benefits MDL cases provide, the courts will likely never consider a class action lawsuit to resolve the thousands of pending cases.
The courts will likely decide to continue conserving judicial resources, by consolidating all cases into one court (state or federal) and where the defendants and plaintiffs share issues in discovery and other pre-trial matters. There are significant benefits to not merging thousands of cases into one. Instead, individual suits within the MDL case can arrive at different outcomes. Consolidation is only used to decide issues that are shared by many cases-not to decide the outcome of every case at once.
So far there have been MDL proceedings but no class action lawsuits involving the Bair Hugger. To read more about the MDL case, click here:
Many of the allegations made by attorneys working on behalf of the plaintiffs who have filed Bair Hugger lawsuits are built on numerous factors that are easy to prove in court. These factors include:
- The Bair Hugger design is defective;
- 3M and Arizant Healthcare, Inc. brought an unreasonably dangerous product to the medical marketplace;
- The device manufacturers conceal the potential risks of infection associated with their device;
- Both device companies failed to test their Bair Hugger warming blanket adequately;
- Even though the product manufacturer was well aware of the defective safety issues, they still aggressively marketed their Bair Hugger product;
- Both companies aggressively misrepresented their warming blanket device claiming it met HEPA filtration standards;
- Both companies released false and intentionally misleading data concerning the warming blanket's safety;
- Both companies were negligent on multiple counts;
- their negligence caused patients significant harm including the development of life-threatening infections;
- Both 3M and Arizant Healthcare, Inc. failed to warn doctors, discontinue its use, or redesign the product even after they knew there were dangers associated with using the Bair Hugger warming device.
Many shortcomings involved in the defective device were identified through numerous peer reviews, research, and scientific studies.
What to Do
If you were injured or lost a loved one after undergoing a surgery that used a Bair Hugger warming device, your likely entitled to receive financial compensation to recover your damages. However, these medical device injury cases are complicated and often require an experienced personal injury attorney who specializes in product liability cases. With legal representation, you can be assured that your case is successfully resolved in federal or state court.
Hiring an Attorney is Necessary
The defective medical device injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC understand that your injuries are not your fault but the responsibility of the product manufacturer. We have successfully obtained millions on behalf of the victims and their family members to ensure they were adequately compensated to cover their medical expenses, household bills, lost wages, loss of future earnings, pain, suffering, and emotional damage and we can help your family too. Our attorneys prosecute faulty equipment, bad drug, and medical malpractice lawsuits.
Our legal team encourages you to contact our attorneys today to schedule a free, no-obligation case consultation to discuss the merits of your monetary recovery claim. We accept all personal injury cases, wrongful death lawsuits, and defective medical device injury claims through contingency fee arrangements. This legal contract postpones the payment of legal services until after we have successfully completed your case through a negotiated settlement or a jury verdict.
Our law firm gets results quickly because we understand you need money now. We probably offer every client a “No Win/No-Fee” Guarantee, meaning if we are unable to secure financial compensation on your behalf you owe us nothing. All information you share with our law office will stay confidential.
For additional information see the following pages:
- What is a Bair Hugger blanket?
- What are the risks of using a Bair Hugger?
- Has the FDA taken any action against the makers of the Bair Hugger?
- What are the laws surrounding Bair Hugger accidents?
- Have there been any cases involving Bair Hugger blankets?
- What damages could I recover in my Bair Hugger lawsuit?
- Is there a time limit when I have to file my Bair Hugger lawsuit?