Lawsuits Against Bair Hugger Surgical Warming Device Looking to Consolidate

Jared Firestone

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— Updated on June 23, 2020

Lawsuits Against Bair Hugger Surgical Warming Device Looking to Consolidate

Bair Hugger Class ActionThe District of Minnesota will soon be hearing arguments involving a class action lawsuit brought by patients who allegedly suffered infections caused by the Bair Hugger postoperative warming system. The Bair Hugger is a medical device developed to keep patients warm during and after surgery. This is to reduce the risk of hypothermia and improve healing time. This particular device serves as a disposable heating blanket to keep patients warm before, during, and after surgery.

Manufactured by 3M, a highly diversified technology conglomerate, the Bair Hugger has remained in high usage throughout the country. While the actual blanket is disposable, the heater and forced-air system is designed for reuse. Bair Hugger lawsuits allege that air heating blankets cause patients to contract infections. These stem from germs picked up in hospitals and circulated by the device.

The Bair Hugger first received FDA clearance back in 1987 and has been reissued clearance as recently as 2006. The latest clearance stemmed from Bair Hugger’s original owner – Augustine Medical – changing its name to Arizant (3M Company). Despite the fact that the inventor and ex-chairman of Arizant has publicly warned people about the dangers of this product, the FDA has not issued a recall. Dr. Scott Augustine, the inventor of the Bair Hugger, has advocated for a new device which he also invented.

Several studies in the recent past have indicated that the Bair Hugger may not be safe for patients undergoing surgery. In 2011, a study concluded that there was a significant increase in deep joint infection when using forced-air warming devices. In 2013, another study concluded that excess heat generated by forced air warming disrupted the ventilation of air flow. Thus compromising the surgical site’s sterility.

SSIs (surgical site infections), MRSA (staph infections), sepsis, and other serious infections are a few of the injuries allegedly incurred by users of the Bair Hugger therapy. Plaintiffs’ lawyers around the country are targeting this device to recover damages in past and future medical expenses, disability expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, and even funeral expenses.

The District of Minnesota will be hearing arguments from the Plaintiff’s side to consolidate the case in federal court. The criteria for consolidation under Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is numerosity, commonality, typicality, and adequacy. Given the common questions of fact for this line of cases, it is likely that the court will grant consolidation and hear the case as a class action. The statute of limitations question might present a problem for future litigants. However, any affected users of Bair Hugger should consult a local attorney to assess the viability of claims.

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