Federal lawsuits alleging infection and other complications from the Bair Hugger warming blanket have been centralized in the District of Minnesota.
What’s the problem?
December 11, 2015 – The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) today centralized lawsuits filed over 3M’s Bair Hugger Forced Air Warming system into an MDL before Judge Joan Ericksen in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota. The complaints allege that the Bair Hugger disrupts air ventilation in the operation room, causing infections which have led to multiple surgeries and even amputation of affected limbs. The suits further claim that 3M has been aware of the infection problem since at least 2009.
In addition to the consolidated lawsuits, more than a dozen others have been filed in Minnesota’s Ramsey County District Court, where Judge William H. Leary III has coordinated the litigation and set the 1st scheduling conference for December 22.
3M initially opposed the MDL, accusing plaintiffs lawyers of piggybacking claims promulgated as part of a “smear campaign” from Dr. Scott Augustine, inventor of the Bair Hugger.
In 2010, 3M acquired Augustine’s company for $810 million. Augustine now sells a competing product called the Hot Dog Patient Warming System which doesn’t use forced air.
Last month, 3M finally agreed to coordinating most of the litigation in Minnesota, but continued to deny claims that the Bair Hugger increased rates of infection. 3M has said the Bair Hugger is helpful at preventing hypothermia during hip and knee replacement surgery, and studies have found it reduces the rate of infections.
Although 2 cases have been pending since 2013 and 2014, most lawsuits have been filed in the past 4 months. Plaintiffs lawyers have said they expect hundreds of cases to be filed before the litigation process is complete.