In December 2017 thousands of plaintiffs pursuing Bair Hugger lawsuits for hip and knee replacement infections allegedly caused by the surgical warming system learned that the federal judge overseeing their cases refused to bar their preferred expert witnesses from testifying. This was in response to a motion filed by the 3M Company, which markets the Bair Hugger forced air warming system through its Arizant Healthcare, Inc. subsidiary, which asked the court to exclude the experts and then dismiss the lawsuits for a lack of expert witnesses.
It is another setback for 3M as they continue to vigorously defend the product. In a tactic ripped straight out of the “Fake news” playbook, 3M spokeswomen Donna Fleming Runyon accuses plaintiffs’ attorneys of using “bad science” in their lawsuits against the multinational conglomerate. But I question how bad the science can really be when the Bair Hugger’s inventor, Dr. Scott Augustine, has claimed that “there is no question” that the device spreads contaminants found in the OR. Dr. Augustine has also claimed that 3M knew of the issues before purchasing Arizant, the device’s maker, in 2010. Furthermore, in the Journal of Hospital Infection, no fewer than 10 peer-reviewed studies were referenced that suggested use of forced-air warming systems such as the Bair Hugger succeeded in the introduction of contamination to the operating field.
In one of the current lawsuit a plaintiff claims, “The hot air produced by Bair Hugger accumulates under the surgical drape covering the patient and escapes from under the surgical drape below the level of the surgical table or at the head end of the surgical table. This escaped air creates airflow currents that flow against the downward airflow of the operating room. As this warmed air rises, it deposits bacteria from the floor of the surgical room into the surgical site.”
With sales exceeding $31 billion dollars, 3M has chosen to ignore the reports of infection caused by the Bair Hugger. In the current lawsuits plaintiffs allege that 3M was aware of the life-threatening design flaw for at least seven years, yet did nothing. In the meantime almost 200 million patients who used the device lives have been put at risk. The corporation has prioritized profits over patients safety and the culture of greed in the medical industry is perpetuated. With more than 50,000 Bair Hugger devices still in use across the U.S., the company needs to stop ignoring the scientific data and remove this dangerous product from the market.
At Saunders & Walker we continue to represent clients harmed by dangerous and defective medical devices. If you suspect that you or a loved one has suffered a dangerous infection following a surgery in which a Bair hugger warming blanket was used, please contact our office for a free consultation.
Admitted to both the California State Bar and the Florida State Bar, Joseph Saunders has also practiced in the United States District Court and the United States Court of Appeals. His philosophy is to provide aggressive, quality representation and seek fair compensation for individuals and their families who have suffered injury or death at the hands of insurance companies, large corporations, medical providers or governmental entities.