Several Nevadans have contracted an infection following hip- or knee-replacement surgery that involved a Bair Hugger warming blanket. Now these victims may be able to join the hundreds of other patients all over the U.S. suing the manufacturer 3M for negligence.
3M allegedly knew its warming blanket increased the risk of bacteria and germs entering vulnerable patients’ open wounds on the operating table. Yet they failed to fix the defect or to notify physicians about the potential hazard.
Deep joint infections contracted during hip- or knee-replacement surgeries can be very serious. 3M may be liable for large compensatory damages for:
- hospital bills and long-term care,
- lost earnings,
- loss of future earnings,
- pain and suffering, and/or
- wrongful death
Negligence victims have two (2) years following the injury to bring a lawsuit in Nevada.
In this article, our Las Vegas personal injury attorneys answer frequently-asked-questions about Bair Hugger warming blanket lawsuits in Nevada, including negligence claims, standards of proof, and statutes of limitations. Click on a topic to jump to that section:
- 1. What can I do if I got injured by a Bair Hugger warming blanket in Las Vegas, NV?
- 2. What money can I get?
- 3. Whom can I sue?
- 4. How do I prove my claim?
- 5. When can I sue?
- 6. Should I file my lawsuit in NV or join a federal class action?
- 7. What are warming blankets used for?
- 8. Have Bair Hugger warming blankets been recalled?
- 9. Resources
- 10. Related “mass tort” device litigation
Patients who develop infections following hip- or knee- replacement surgery aided by the warming blanket may be able to sue the device’s manufacturer for negligence. Should the case go to trial, the plaintiff (victim) would have the burden to prove these four elements:
- The defendant(s) owed the plaintiff a duty of care;
- The defendant(s) breached this duty;
- This breach caused the plaintiff’s injury; and
- This injury resulted in damages.1
A negligence lawsuit against 3M would likely allege that the company was aware that its product was unreasonably dangerous because it carried a heightened risk of germs entering surgical incisions. Yet despite its knowledge, 3M did not redesign the blanket to fix the defects. Furthermore, 3M did not warn physicians of the increased risk of joint infections during hip- and knee- replacement surgeries.2
Warming blankets release air under the operating table, which increases the potential for contaminants to find their way into the patients’ surgical sites. This may lead to patients who are getting hip- or knee-replacements to develop sepsis, NTM (nontuberculous mycobacteria), or MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). These “deep joint” infections are hard to treat.
If infected patients do not respond to antibiotics or further surgeries, then doctors may have to resort to revision surgeries, joint fusion, or even amputation. Patients who are most susceptible to warming blanket-induced infections suffer from diabetes or immune deficiencies.2
The ideal situation is to negotiate a massive settlement and avoid trial. In the event the case does go to trial, the plaintiff’s attorney will fight for “compensatory damages.” This is money to cover the following:
- All medical bills for recovering from the Bair Hugger warming blanket-induced infection;
- Pain and suffering arising from the plaintiff’s injuries;
- Lost wages from being unable to work while injured, and/or
- Loss of future earnings due to the plaintiff’s inability to work.
At trial, the plaintiff’s attorney would also fight for punitive damages. Courts award punitive damages to “punish” the defendant for their behavior. Punitive damages often far exceed compensatory damages.
People injured by the Bair Hugger warming blanket can sue the device’s manufacturer 3M. Every year 3M earns $30 billion from tens of thousands of products.
Most cases settle out of court. But if it does go to trial, the plaintiff has the burden to show “by a preponderance of the evidence” that 3M’s negligence resulted in the plaintiff’s infection. Typical evidence would include:
- Medical records that document the plaintiff’s surgery and ensuing infection;
- Testimony from an expert medical witness that makes the link between the warming blanket and the plaintiff’s illness;
If the court finds that it is more likely than not that 3M is liable, the plaintiff will win the trial. Learn more about proving negligence in Nevada.
Victims may file a negligence suit against 3M within two (2) years of contracting an infection.3 There may be ways to get around this though, so victims should consult with an attorney to go over their possibilities.
Class actions are not the first choice for going after medical device manufacturers. Instead, victims are advised to join a multi-district litigation (MDL). An MDL is like a class action in that a lot of the pretrial procedures are streamlined. And they share the same “strength in numbers” quality. But each case remains separate and can always return to its original, local court for the trial if no settlement is reached.
Currently, there is a Bair Hugger MDL out of Minnesota called In re: Forced Air Warming Devices Products Liability Litigation (MDL #2750).
Surgeons rely on warming blankets to regulate patients’ body temperature during operations.
Originally approved by the FDA in 1987, Bair Hugger’s 3M system operates like a forced-air heater. Warm air travels through a hose into the patient’s blanket and under the surgical table.4
No. Though in 2015 the FDA issued a safety alert for all heater-cooler medical devices. This is because research showed that circulated air from a warming blanket contains hundreds of times more potential contaminants than similar devices that circulate air.5
- The Journal of Hospital Infection – Warming Blanket Infections
- The Ring of Fire – Bair Hugger Infections
- International Anesthesia Research Society – Warming Blanket Ventilation
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- Essure lawsuits in Nevada
- See, e.g. Scialabba v. Brandise Const. Co., 112 Nev. 965, 921 P.2d 928 (1996).
- See Joe Carlson, Lawsuits turn up heat on 3M’s Bair Hugger warming blankets, Star Tribune (October 27, 2017)
- NRS 11.190.
- Bair Hugger warming blanket official site.
- FDA Heater-Cooler Warming Blanket Safety Alert.