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First Round of Bellwether Cases Selected in Bair Hugger Device MDL

Elizabeth DiNardo, Esq. | Associate Counsel

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The first round of bellwether cases in the Bair Hugger Forced Air Warming System MDL were chosen in Minnesota federal court on April 7, 2017. The joint filing stated that both parties had selected 16 cases out of a pool of 150 cases randomly chosen previously by the court in January 2017. The total number of bellwethers to be tried is 31, as one case was chosen by both sides.

Plaintiffs in the suit claim that the product in question, which operates like a forced-air heater by carrying warmed air through a hose to a disposable blanket which is placed over the patient during surgery, actually circulates non-sterile air from the operating room floor causing bacteria to enter the surgical site, which can lead to serious infections. Defendant 3M, who manufacturers the product, claims that it is an essential part of patient safety during operations as it helps to maintain the patient’s body temperature during surgery, which can drop significantly during surgery due to several factors including, anesthesia, IV fluids or a cold operating room.

Since the cases were consolidated into a multidistrict litigation in December 2015, 3M has vigorously denied the plaintiffs’ allegations which initially condemned them as part of a “smear campaign” from the product’s creator, Dr. Scott Augustine. Augustine has publically denounced the product as unsafe and wrote a stinging New York Times article on the subject in 2010, just months after selling his company to 3M for $810 million. However, Plaintiffs’ attorneys have consistently maintained that Dr. Augustine has no affiliations with the pending lawsuits. After the bellwether case selections were announced, 3M publically stated that while the company does feel sympathy towards any patients who suffer from post-surgical infections, the company does not believe that there is any correlation between infection and use of the Bair Hugger device. The company further stated, “3M wants patients, surgeons and hospitals to know that there is absolutely no evidence that Bair Hugger therapy causes or increases the risk of surgical site infections.”

No trial dates have been announced as of this publication.

The Case Is: In Re: Bair Hugger Forced Air Warming Devices Products Liability Litigation MDL No.: 2666, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota

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