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The Current Status of the Bair Hugger Lawsuit


Surgical warming blankets are used in hundreds of thousands of surgeries each year throughout the United States. Maintaining a patient’s body temperature during surgery has several benefits, including decreased bleeding and a shorter recovery time. The Bair Hugger device is a forced-air warming system that blows warm air into a blanket that is placed over the patient during surgery. Several scientific studies have shown that warm air from the Bair Hugger device can cause convection currents that bring potentially contaminated air from the floor of the surgical room up to the patient’s incision site. It is being alleged that, during knee and hip replacement surgeries, this recirculated air can introduce harmful bacteria into the surgical site, causing deep joint infections. These types of complications have prompted over one hundred patients to file claims in the Bair Hugger lawsuit. Our legal team will be updating the timeline of litigation to maintain the current status of the Bair Hugger lawsuit. If you or a loved one has experienced complications after having surgery in which a Bair Hugger system was used, please contact an experienced defective medical device attorney to explore your legal rights.

A patient in a hospital bed
There are currently hundreds of Bair Hugger lawsuits pending in state and federal courts.

Bair Hugger Lawsuits Filed

At present, there have been over 112 Bair Hugger lawsuits filed in which the plaintiffs claim that they sustained joint infections following surgery to replace knee and hip joints.

Tommy Walton Case

In 2013 the first lawsuit claiming injury from a Bair Hugger warming device was filed in Texas. The plaintiff, a 70-year-old man named Tommy Walton, claimed that the use of the Bair Hugger device used during his hip replacement surgery in 2011 caused an infection of the joint. According to the lawsuit, Mr. Walton underwent 15 additional surgeries before eventually having the artificial hip joint removed. His claim alleges that air from the Bair Hugger device caused bacteria from under the surgical table to be drawn up to the incision site, causing the infection.

3M and Arizant Healthcare Inc. (the manufacturer of the Bair Hugger device and its subsidiary) have been accused of negligence for:

  • Failure to properly and thoroughly analyze pre-market testing data
  • Failure to properly and thoroughly test the Bair Hugger warming device before it was released to market
  • Failure to conduct adequate testing and maintain follow-up data after the device was made available to the consumer market.

Mr. Walton’s lawsuit is seeking over $1,000,000 in actual and punitive damages.

Timothy Johnson Case

In September 2010, Timothy Johnson underwent knee replacement surgery in Kansas. He subsequently developed a MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) infection in the knee joint that required his leg to be amputated. In 2014 Mr. Johnson filed a lawsuit alleging that the Bair Hugger device caused air flow currents that deposited bacteria from the surgical room floor into the incision site, causing the infection.

Rosie Bartel Case

In 2014, Rosie Bartel filed a Bair Hugger lawsuit claiming that she developed a MRSA infection after knee replacement surgery. She underwent 11 additional surgeries and had to have part of her leg amputated. She claims that, as a result of her injuries, she lost her job and her home.

Multidistrict Litigation (MDL)

Complex product liability lawsuits involving multiple plaintiffs are commonly transferred to one court in a process called multidistrict litigation (MDL). Cases are consolidated in MDL to expedite pre-trial issues, such as discovery, and to ensure consistent rulings on evidence that will be common to all cases. Each individual case remains separate, and plaintiffs are free to retain their own legal counsel and make their own decisions concerning settlements and proceeding to jury trials.

If you have been injured by a defective medical device, Speak with an Attorney

MDL trials can greatly benefit individual plaintiffs by making the process more efficient, cost-effective, and still allowing individual concerns to be addressed. Typically, after several individual cases have gone to trial, the defendants can obtain an accurate picture of their potential financial burden and determine appropriate settlement amounts to offer based on the severity of individual injuries that were sustained. The majority of claims in the Bair Hugger lawsuit will be handled as an MDL.

Discovery and Evidence

In any lawsuit, the discovery process is the pre-trial procedure in which plaintiffs and defendants can obtain evidence from the other parties. This may include requests for answers through interrogatories, production of documents pertaining to the case, depositions, subpoenas, and any other materials that may lead to admissible evidence. In MDL cases, these issues are consolidated before a single judge to keep rulings on evidence consistent across all trials. This process ensures that all plaintiffs are receiving a fair trial.

In the Bair Hugger lawsuit, plaintiffs may request to see documents from the manufacturer regarding the design of the device, any reports of adverse effects, or any studies that were done regarding the safety of the device. Plaintiffs may also want to depose key figures from the defendant companies, as well as any expert witnesses that the defendants may call upon to testify during trial.

The defendants may request to see the medical records of the plaintiffs to verify that they were in fact injured as claimed. The defendants’ legal counsel will also typically request to depose the plaintiffs and any other expert witnesses that will be called upon to testify during the trial.

In order to prevail in a Bair Hugger claim, a plaintiff would need to show evidence proving that:

  • The plaintiff was injured or suffered a loss
  • The Bair Hugger device is defective
  • The defect in the Bair Hugger device caused the plaintiff’s injury or loss, and
  • The device was being used as intended by the manufacturer

Proving each of these different elements would be extraordinarily difficult and overwhelming for individual plaintiffs. However, because the majority of Bair Hugger claims have been consolidated before one judge, each individual case can benefit from shared discovery.

Litigation Updates

In December 2015, the existing Bair Hugger lawsuits were centralized in federal court in Minnesota through MDL. In January 2016, the court issued its first pre-trial order which placed all discovery on hold and stated that the first status conference would be in February. As of February 16, 2016, at least 112 individual Bair Hugger lawsuits had been filed with the court alleging that plaintiffs who had undergone hip and knee replacement procedures in which a Bair Hugger device was used subsequently developed deep joint infections. As more claims are filed, they will also be included in the consolidated case. Litigation is in its earliest stages and cases of this type can take several years to investigate and determine appropriate evidence.

Arrange a Complimentary Case Evaluation

Bair Hugger surgical warming systems were originally intended to maintain a patient’s body temperature during surgical procedures. However, many patients have suffered severe injuries that may have been caused by the device, and its inventor has even spoken out publicly against the use of these systems. If you or a loved one has suffered complications after surgery with a Bair Hugger device, please contact a defective medical device attorney to arrange a complimentary case evaluation. You may be entitled to significant damages for your injuries.

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