A number of MRSA lawsuits have been filed post Dr. Augustine’s warning about the MRSA infection and other acquired infections over the use of Bair Hugger blanket. Patients who developed infections after surgeries involving Bair Hugger temperature management systems filed ‘3M lawsuits’ claiming the device's manufacturer, 3M, was negligent as it failed to warn the doctors and patients of the Bair Hugger infection risk and misrepresented its products as safe to use.
Dr. Scott D. Augustine is, however, campaigning against his own discovery since his resignation as chairman and chief executive of Arizant Healthcare Inc., in 2002. He claims the Bair Hugger therapy can cause infectious bacteria to spread during an orthopedic surgery. During the procedure, air is also released under the surgical table at the same time. This released air under the table can cause germs and bacteria to spread throughout the room, landing on a patient's surgical incision site. Infections such as sepsis and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in the patient’s hip or knee can occur. Deep joint infections, adverse health complications, and other hospital-acquired infections have a higher probability of occurrence. Subsequent treatments become very difficult if they occur deep in the joints.
Centralization of the existing lawsuits against 3M Bair Hugger system took place in December 2015, in the federal court, Minnesota.
Multidistrict litigation 2666 (In Re: Bair Hugger Forced Air Warming Devices Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 2666) was established with product liability Personal Injury cases filed, and additional cases are expected to be filed in or transferred to this Court.
January 2016, witnessed a filing of at least 112 individual 3M Lawsuits.
2018: At least 2,000 3M Bair Hugger lawsuits are pending in the U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota.
August 2019: 5000 Plus Bair Hugger Lawsuits Tossed: U.S. District Judge Joan Erickson of the District of Minnesota granted summary judgment against more than 5,000 lawsuits over 3M’s surgical warming blankets that sought to exclude the plaintiffs’ general causation experts.
United States District Judge Joan N. Ericksen
Magistrate Judge Franklin L. Noel
The first Bair Hugger trial is scheduled for February 26, 2018.
August 2019: 5000 Plus Bair Hugger Lawsuits Tossed: U.S. District Judge Joan Erickson of the District of Minnesota granted summary judgment against more than 5,000 lawsuits over 3M’s surgical warming blankets that sought to exclude the plaintiffs’ general causation experts. The lawsuits coordinated in the MDL alleged that the defendant’s forced-air warming system increased the risk of infection. Todd Fruchterman, General Manager of 3M Medical Solutions Business, stated that there is no legitimate scientific support for the plaintiffs’ theory. He also stated that they want physicians and patients to understand that the practice of patient warming is supported by leading health care institutions, professional societies, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
In the first bellwether trial, the defendant won the verdict as a federal jury sided with them. After trial, the defendant filed a motion for the judge to reconsider a 2017 summary judgment. In the renewed motion filed on January 24, they cited newly released scientific research that refuted claims from plaintiffs’ attorney that Bair Hugger disrupted protective “forcefield” around patients during surgery, an idea that plaintiffs’ own expert called “absolute rubbish” and “silly” during the first bellwether trial.
December 2018: 3M managed to get two bellwether cases dismissed this December linked to lawsuits filed by patients who claimed they got severe infections due to the company's Bair Hugger warming system. So far, eight bellwether cases that were considered as representative of the entire pool of cases were dismissed voluntarily by plaintiffs' attorneys. The only bellwether case that went to trial was ruled in favor of 3M in less than two hours of deliberation. The first bellwether trial was dismissed in June 2018, and the appeal for a new trial was rejected in September 2018. On October 30, 2018, Lawyer Seth Webb voluntarily excluded two more cases, which were scheduled for December 3, 2018 - the bellwether case of another plaintiff was dropped from the court's list after most of her claims made were dismissed by the Minnesota federal court in September 2018. The case has not been formally dismissed yet.
Overall, more than 550 Bair Hugger lawsuits filed against 3M have been dismissed. The cases were dismissed based on a variety of reasons: plaintiffs failed to support their claims; voluntary dismissal by the plaintiff's attorney; no proven use of Bair Hugger system during surgery; plaintiffs failed to comply with the court orders.
June 2018: The two-week trial for 3M Bair Hugger System ended in favor of the defendant as the Minneapolis federal jury announced on May 30 that the plaintiff failed to provide adequate evidence to affirm the Bair Hugger System caused the surgical site infection. This was the first bellwether trial in a series of lawsuits lined up against the air warming blanket maker. The plaintiff from South Carolina suffered a deep joint infection in 2010 after he underwent a total right knee replacement surgery during which the 3M Bair Hugger warming blanket was used. In the allegation, the plaintiff states that the defective design of the warming blanket was the reason for him to undergo the antibiotic treatments, intravenous injections, and revision surgery for the removal of his knee implant. A second 3M Bair Hugger System trial is expected to be trial-ready by December 2018, involving claims by a couple of Idaho.
April 2018: Two 3M Bair Hugger System cases were selected for the upcoming trial to begin on or after April 30, on the basis that the plaintiffs involved allegedly suffered infections caused by 3M’s Bair Hugger warming blankets used during their total knee replacement surgeries. Claims made by both the cases are similar that defendants 3M Company and its Arizant Healthcare subsidiary sold a dangerous and defectively designed product that caused severe and debilitating deep joint infections. The selected cases were filed by a plaintiff from South Carolina and a couple from Idaho. In October 2017, Judge Joan N. Ericksen, presiding over the centralized litigation, MDL No: 2666, in the District of Minnesota, released an order for the case-specific discovery and disposition motions of these cases to be trial-ready by April 30, 2018. This month, Judge Ericksen denied a defense motion seeking to dismiss a design defect claim made by a plaintiff and also denied the defense request to exclude the plaintiff’s expert witness testimonies. The judge did grant the defense motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s failure to warn claims.