Philips CPAP Machine Lawsuit – Update
Pennsylvania U.S. District Judge Joy Conti will oversee the growing number of lawsuits related to the recall of Philips CPAP devices, according to an October 2021 court order.
Royal Philips NV, an Amsterdam-based company, recalled more than three million CPAP breathing machines in the summer of 2021. Studies indicate that the sound-insulating foam could break up and cause serious injuries. A Georgia personal injury attorney who testified before an MDL panel speculated that the recall could spark “massive” litigation. Another attorney asked the panel to consolidate the cases in Pennsylvania, since the CPAP devices sold in America are made in Pittsburgh.
A Philips spokesperson refused to comment on the matter.
About Defective CPAP Machines
These gadgets, which treat sleep apnea, have been available for a number of years. This condition impedes or closes the airway as people sleep. Depending on the severity of the condition, CPAP machines gently, or not so gently, force air into the airway, so it remains open. Most patients have these machines at or near their highest possible settings. Typically, the patient needs extreme intervention. Otherwise, less radical solutions would be available.
At or near their highest setting, most CPAP machines make so much noise that they disrupt sleep patterns. In other words, the cure is almost as bad as, or even worse than, the disease.
Philips CPAP machines are different, and much more effective, thanks to a simple innovation. A layer of polyurethane foam surrounds the motor and deadens the sound. This foam, which is most likely in your mattress and in other household products, is incredibly toxic. However, as long as the foam remains in one large piece and no particles enter the body, it is perfectly safe in most cases.
However, as mentioned, most Philips CPAP machines operate at high settings. The resulting vibrations break up the foam. So, microscopic particles enter the air hose and thus go directly into the user’s lungs. These particles could cause cancer and a number of other serious chronic illnesses.
The specific nature of the product defect is unclear. However, the legal issues surrounding defective products are quite clear. Compensation is available if one of the following issues caused injury:
- Design Defect: Foam is brittle. Any excessive force, like vibrations from a high-powered motor, could cause it to break up. So, it might have been a mistake to use polyurethane foam. Instead, perhaps company designers should have focused on making the engine quieter.
- Manufacturing Defect: Not all foam is created equally. As a rule of thumb, the more expensive the foam is, the more stable it is. To reduce these costs, manufacturers like Philips often use cheap substitutes which are very dangerous. In other words, they put profits before people.
This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Juries usually award significant punitive damages in these cases as well. Usually, these manufacturers know about these safety issues. But they keep selling the dangerous products anyway.
Possible Legal Issues
Usually, manufacturers are strictly liable for the injuries their defective products cause. Negligence or recklessness usually only affects the amount of damages.
So, many manufacturers attack the causation element of a defective product claim. Cancer is difficult to connect to a specific cause. Typically, cancer is a genetic condition. Some people have higher cancer risks than other people. As a result, almost anything in their environments could cause this illness.
Product misuse is usually the only legal defense to a defective product claim. There are several kinds of potential misuse in these situations. Frequently, a doctor tells a patient to put a machine on an unacceptably high setting. In that case, the fault might lie with the doctor as opposed to the manufacturer. Other potential misuse includes irresponsible self-help (putting the machine on too high of a setting), failure to properly maintain the gadget, or failure to spot warning signs.
To rebut these defenses, a Long Island personal injury attorney often relies on the unforeseeable misuse doctrine. Typically, misuse defenses are only effective if the misuse is completely beyond the pale.
What to Expect in a Legal Claim
Cases like defective CPAP machines usually create two kinds of legal claims. Sometimes, these gadgets immediately cause cancer or another serious illness. Other times, patients must closely monitor their health for the rest of their lives. These medical bills quickly add up.
The Philips litigation might become one of the largest defective product actions in American legal history. Usually, these cases do not qualify as class actions. Although there are some similarities, the differences are too significant for one victim to speak for tens of thousands of victims. At the same time, due to the number of claims, it would be very inefficient for courts to handle them individually. Furthermore, defective product claims of this nature often involve some highly technical design and other disputes which many judges cannot effectively resolve.
So, federal judges normally refer such cases to Multi-District Litigation sites. A single MDL court usually accepts similar cases from all over the country. The court consolidates these cases for pretrial purposes. This consolidation helps courts, and the taxpayers who pay for them, use their resources more efficiently. Additionally, most MDLs include special experts who are very familiar with the technical issues in the case.
Initially, product manufacturers usually file procedural motions, seeking to throw these cases out of court. As long as there is any evidence to support the claims, these motions usually fail.
Most defective product claims, and most injury claims overall, settle out of court. These settlements usually benefit victim-plaintiffs. Settlements end cases earlier, so victims get their compensation sooner. Additionally, these resolutions give victims more control over the outcome. If the case does not settle, it usually goes back to its home jurisdiction for trial.
Reach Out to Our Dedicated Defective Device Attorneys
Defective sleep apnea breathing machines can potentially cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Long Island, contact the Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe LLP. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters.
For a free legal consultation, call 516-358-6900