A Closer Look at Bair Hugger Lawsuits

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What is a Bair Hugger Blanket?

Bair Hugger blankets help maintain a patient’s temperature during surgery by forcing warm air through a hose and into a blanket which covers the patient.  The blankets were originally intended to counteract the tendency of general anesthesia to hinder a patient’s ability to regulate his or her own temperature during surgery.  Forced-air warming products such as the Bair Hugger are often used to cover the patient with warm air during orthopedic surgeries such as hip and knee replacements.  This warm air, however, also travels beneath the sterile field and picks up germs and bacteria on the surgical floor.          

What are the risks involved? 

According to scientific literature, the Bair Hugger can circulate contaminants in the operating room and increase the risk of infection.[1]  Circulation of contaminants from the surgical floor into the portions of the operating room intended to remain sterile can cause germs and bacteria to land on an orthopedic patient’s surgical site.  If that bacteria lands on the hip or knee implant during surgery, it can create a biofilm that is resistant to antibiotics.  Such infections occurring deep in the patient’s hip or knee joint can therefore be difficult to treat and can result in additional surgeries, amputation, or even death. 

Dr. Scott Augustine, the inventor of the Bair Hugger, recognizes this danger and no longer considers Bair Hugger warming blankets to be safe.  In a 2010 statement made to The New York Times regarding his invention, Dr. Augustine said:  “I am very proud of the old technology [that I created] … but I am also proud to spread the word that there is a problem.”[2] 

What are the Lawsuits Involving Bair Hugger?

Over 100 orthopedic surgical patients have filed suit against 3M alleging that the Bair Hugger blankets were the cause of their infections.  In December 2015, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation centralized all federal Bair Hugger cases in Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) No. 2666 in the District of Minnesota.  The MDL is assigned to The Honorable Judge Joan Ericksen.  The cases in the MDL, while joined together for investigatory purposes, are still separate and distinct regarding individual causation and damages. 

In their complaints, the plaintiffs allege they have suffered significant injuries on account of the use of Bair Hugger warming blankets during their orthopedic surgeries.   Plaintiffs also allege that 3M knew about the risks involved with the Bair Hugger yet failed to warn of those risks, failed to redesign the product to increase its safety, and fought to hide and denounce scientific data demonstrating such risks.  

Why Should I Trust GoldenbergLaw to Handle my Bair Hugger Lawsuit?

At GoldenbergLaw, our attorneys are skilled in litigating defective medical device and defective product lawsuits due to our previous involvement with litigation regarding recalled and defective hip implants.  One of our attorneys, Noah Lauricella, was recently appointed to the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee and will be helping lead this litigation.  Additionally, 3M is headquartered right in our proverbial backyard.  To explore your potential Bair Hugger claim with GoldenbergLaw, please contact us at our downtown Minneapolis location today to schedule a free case review by calling 612-436-5026


[1] For example:  1) McGovern, P.D., et al. Forced-air warming and ultra-clean ventilation do not mix:  an investigation of theatre ventilation, patient warming and join replacement infection in orthopaedics.  J Bone and Joint Surg Br 2011; 93-B: 1537-44; 2) Legg, A., et al.  Forced-air patient warming blankets disrupt unidirectional airflow.  Bone Joint J 2013; 95-B: 407-10; 3) Belani, K., et al.  Patient warming excess heat:  the effects on orthopedic operating room ventilation performance.  Anesthesia & Analgesia 2013; 117:406-11; 4) Legg, A., et al. Do forced air patient-warming devices disrupt unidirectional downward airflow?  J Bone and Joint Surg Br 2012; 94-B:  244-56. 

[2] See Doctor Says a Device He Invented Poses Risks, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/25/business/25invent.html?_r=0.