In June 2021, Philips Respironics recalled millions of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) and other respiratory devices after receiving complaints of defects and new or worsened illnesses from consumers. The complaints and legal claims that followed were due to the breakdown of the polyurethane (PE-PUR) foam, which exists to provide a noise-abating layer, in certain models.
The PE-PUR foam degradation in Philips CPAP machines caused some consumers to ingest and even inhale toxic and carcinogenic compounds. This could lead to a range of illnesses, including chemical poisoning, asthma, pulmonary fibrosis, and liver damage.
By the end of September, 93 proposed class action lawsuits were filed against Philips in response to injuries, risks, and disruptive use of affected CPAP machines. Since then, even more lawsuits have emerged.
Due to the similarity of these claims, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) ruled to consolidate 110 federal lawsuits against Philips in multidistrict litigation (MDL). The Western District of Pennsylvania was selected to host the pretrial proceedings for the products liability cases named in the motion to consolidate. While pretrial proceedings and the discovery process will be streamlined through MDL, each lawsuit will still be tried on its own.
What is Multidistrict Litigation?
When multiple federal lawsuits “involve common questions of fact,” multidistrict litigation could occur. The Judicial Panel of Multidistrict Litigation, which consists of seven circuit and district judges, has a hearing session to review claims and decide whether an MDL should be initiated. Such was the case on October 8, 2021, when they ruled to consolidate the more than 100 lawsuits against Philips for recalled CPAP devices.
Another decision the JPML makes is which court the proceedings will be held in. Factors that affect the location include where the most claims and discovery materials are, and the convenience for any witnesses who will need to testify. The selected court is a potentially important factor in case outcomes because some are known to be more favorable towards plaintiffs or defendants.
Once multidistrict litigation is confirmed, a judge is also selected to oversee litigation during pretrial proceedings and the discovery process. The judge typically encourages the involved parties to reach an agreement to avoid widespread trials that tie up court systems across the country. If a settlement, dismissal, or summary judgment doesn’t occur during the MDL, individual cases will return to their original district for trial.
One of the main benefits of multidistrict litigation is that it alleviates the court system’s burden in situations involving numerous lawsuits with similar evidence and legal allegations. With the number of claims about degraded PE-PUR foam, the Philips CPAP MDL will save time and money and make the pretrial proceedings more efficient and convenient.
What is the Philips CPAP Recall?
Continuous positive airway pressure devices give those who suffer from sleep apnea, a highly disruptive condition, the ability to breathe properly and regularly when they sleep. An estimated 25 million Americans have sleep apnea. This condition can not only cause extreme fatigue, high blood pressure and heart problems but also worsen or lead to other life-threatening illnesses.
The CPAP recall has seen over 1,000 complaints of the polyurethane foam degrading and entering the airways of affected machines. The toxic and carcinogenic compounds are dangerous, and there is a risk of inhaling or ingesting the particles. If this happens, both minor and life-threatening illnesses could occur.
The Philips CPAP, Bi-level PAP, and mechanical ventilators recall is extensive. There are more than three million affected devices in the U.S. alone, leading consumers, as well as their healthcare providers, to face a difficult decision: Do they continue to use a recalled CPAP machine knowing the risks?
It’s an impossible situation for countless consumers, and what’s right for each individual will be specific to their health conditions and other factors. Users should check the list of recalled Philips CPAP machines and immediately contact their doctor for guidance if their device is affected.
For many sleep apnea sufferers, the potential year it could take to fix or replace a recalled CPAP device is too long. And yet, unless their machine is at least five years old, insurance companies will not pay to get a new one, and many consumers cannot afford to purchase a replacement on their own.
Options for Philips CPAP Users
There are a few different legal options for Philips CPAP users if they used a recalled machine for at least six months. These include filing a products liability lawsuit, joining one of the class action CPAP lawsuits, and/or joining a CPAP machine lawsuit investigation.
Even consumers who were not injured by a CPAP machine but advised to stop use may have grounds for a claim because of the impact it has and will continue to have while they wait for it to be fixed – as they suffer through the repercussions of enduring nights of untreated sleep apnea. Some legal reasons for claims include loss of wages and the impact on and risk to their emotional and physical health.
In addition, anyone whose medical provider recommended they continue using a recalled device, typically because the risk of stopping is more dangerous than continuing, could have grounds for a lawsuit against Philips.
While there are several options for consumers, an experienced CPAP recall lawyer should review your case. Law firms specializing in recalled devices and defective products can provide all possible legal opportunities specific to your situation if you use an affected CPAP, Bi-level PAP or mechanical ventilator by Philips. A lawyer can ensure the right documentation and submissions are made on time and through the appropriate avenues to ensure rightful compensation and justice.