Philips’ Breathing-Device Lawsuits Over Toxic Foam Move Forward

Royal Philips NV will face more than 100 U.S. lawsuits gathered in a Pennsylvania court over its recall of more than 3 million devices used to treat sleep apnea that are linked to cancer concerns.

Amsterdam-based Philips, maker of respiratory gear and body scanners, will defend claims its CPAP-breathing machines pose a cancer risk before U.S. District Judge Joy Conti in Pittsburgh, a federal panel said Oct 8. Philips’ main U.S. manufacturing plant is located in the Pittsburgh suburb of Murrysville, Pennsylvania.

Philips announced in June it was recalling CPAP machines because polyester-based foam used inside the devices to cut noise can break down and be ingested by users. Researchers have linked the material to some cancers and other illnesses. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which breathing stops and starts, causing fatigue and longer-term health woes. Many Philips’ ventilator products — designed to improve sleep patterns — are sold under the DreamStation brand.

The Royal Philips NV logo sits on the company’s headquarters in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Michael London, a New York-based plaintiffs’ lawyer representing device users, said he expects thousands of consumers to sue over the company’s decision to use a potential carcinogen in the device’s design and manufacture.

“There are layers and layers of” potential claims, including class-action suits and those seeking medical monitoring for CPAP users, he told the panel. Such cases seek funds to monitor patients’ health.

Silvie Casanova, a U.S.-based spokeswoman for Philips, didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment after regular business hours Monday.

“This is going to be a massive,” litigation, Kyle Wallace, an Atlanta-based plaintiffs’ lawyer told the panel of federal judges that decides where mass-tort cases will be consolidated earlier this month. “We’re dealing with a product people desperately need” to deal with sleep apnea, he added.

Beena McDonald, a plaintiffs’ lawyer representing CPAP users, urged the panel to send the cases to Conti because the “strongest nexis to the evidence, design and manufacture” of the devices is the Murrysville plant. The panel agreed, noting “many of witnesses and much of the documentary evidence relevant to this litigation likely will be located” near Pittsburgh, according to the ruling.

The case is IN RE Philips Recalled CPAP, Bi-Level PAP and Mechanical Ventilator Products Liability Litigation, 21-MD-3014, U.S District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh).

About the photo: The Royal Philips NV logo sits on the company’s headquarters in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018. Philips shares dropped after fourth-quarter profit missed estimates as a weaker dollar ate into earnings. Photographer: Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg