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The makers of the Stockert 3T Heater-Cooler Systems (“3T System”) have filed a motion with the U.S. Judicial Panel of Multidistrict Litigation (“JPML” to “Panel”) asking the Panel to transfer and consolidate all pending and forthcoming 3T System lawsuits filed in federal court into one court for pre-trial proceedings.

In their November 6, 2017 motion, defendants asked the Panel to consolidate all federal actions involving the 3T System.  The filed 3T System claims include both personal injury claimants who develop serious, antibiotic-resistant infections after being exposed to a contaminated 3T System, and Plaintiffs who have not yet been diagnosed with an infection but require ongoing medical monitoring because they were potentially exposed to a contaminated 3T System. Defendants have asked the Panel to transfer the cases to the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, where at least 10 of the cases are currently pending, and have requested District Judge Bruce H. Hendricks oversee the proceedings.

This Is the Second Motion to Consolidate 3T Heater-Cooler Lawsuits

This isn’t the first time consolidation has been suggested in this litigation. In January 2017, a group of plaintiffs filed a motion to consolidate all cases into a multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the District of South Carolina. Defendants and other plaintiffs opposed centralization and the JPML denied the motion in April 2017.

Now, the defendants argue that things have changed because the number of 3T System cases has nearly tripled. According to the defendants there are now 42 pending federal actions which has “disrupted the parties’ informal coordination to date, and the resulting complexity threatens to cause significant inconvenience and undue expense to the parties, their counsel, and the courts.”

They add that the cases share common questions of fact, including, whether the 3T System was defectively manufactured and designed, and lacked adequate warnings as to the risks. Many of the Plaintiffs in the litigation have opposed the Defendants’ Motion arguing that consolidation is not warranted in the 3T System Litigation.  The Panel should decide the Motion in early 2018.

Scientists Link Dangerous Infections to Contaminated 3T Heater-Cooler Units

The FDA warned that surgery with 3T System could result in serious Nontuberculous Mycobacterium (NTM) infections.  Heater-cooler devices are often used during open-chest surgeries to keep the patients warm and keep the blood circulating at normal temperatures. The devices have water tanks that provide temperature-controlled water to external warming/cooling blankets or heat exchangers. The devices can spread contaminated water that has aerosolized into the surgical room.

In 2016, a study was published that linked Mycobacterium chimaera (M. Chimaera) samples taken from infected patients to the heater-cooler units used during their open-chest surgeries. The contamination also traced back to the defendants’ manufacturing site.

That same year, the FDA released an updated safety communication warning healthcare professionals of the danger, and advising them to “strongly consider transitioning away from the use of these devices for open-chest cardiac surgery until the manufacturer has implemented strategies for these devices to mitigate the risks of patient infection.”

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