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Philips CPAP Lawsuits

The announcement in 2021 that a manufacturing defect had caused certain Philips CPAP devices to become harmful brought users significant anxiety. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has received thousands of reports of harm, including hundreds of deaths connected with these machines. Philips is now facing product liability lawsuits, which aim to hold the company accountable for the harm caused by these devices.

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A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine is a medical device used for the treatment of sleep apnea. Worn at night, the device blows air into the person’s airway to keep it open during sleep. Millions of Americans depend on CPAP machines to maintain their quality of life and protect their long-term health.

In June 2021, Philips announced a recall for a variety of CPAP machines along with other breathing devices (such as ventilators). These devices contained a type of foam known as polyester-based polyurethane, or PE-PUR. The foam was used to dampen noise and vibrations caused by the function of the device.

PE-PUR foam can break down into smaller particles, which enter the air pathway of the device and can then be inhaled or swallowed by the user. The foam particles pose a number of health risks, including airway and skin irritation, kidney and liver toxicity, and cancer.

In addition, as PE-PUR foam breaks down, it releases several gases, some of which are potentially toxic. These gases can cause many health issues, including a severe systemic inflammatory response, toxic effects on the nervous and digestive systems, and cancer.

Have Philips CPAP machines caused deaths?

When the recall was first announced, Philips issued a recall letter that stated, “There have been no reports of death as a result of these issues.”

However, before the announcement, most patients were unaware of their CPAP’s potential issues including the risk of cancer. They may have been unlikely to report certain health problems to the company, not knowing that these could be connected to their machine.

Since the recall, the FDA has received additional reports of issues related to the use of the affected CPAP devices. As of July 31, 2022, more than 69,000 cases of harm have been reported. These include 168 deaths, mostly from cancer.

The FDA is still investigating these reports and has not yet released a final statement detailing the harm that these devices have caused to consumers.

Is Philips liable for the harm caused by their CPAP machines?

In certain cases, manufacturers of medical devices can be held liable for harm caused by the use of their devices. This includes cases in which the design of the product was not reasonably safe and cases in which the manufacturer failed to provide adequate warnings and instructions about how to properly use the device.

In the Philips CPAP recall case, both of these may be true. Philips selected PE-PUR sound abatement foam, which is cost-effective but is not particularly durable. They also designed the device in such a way that when the foam breaks down, toxic particles and gases can enter the device’s air pathway. These may be considered design defects that cause avoidable harm.

In addition, the use of certain cleaning methods may accelerate the breakdown of the foam. However, many consumers were not aware of this risk and allege that the company did not adequately inform them of how to safely store and clean their devices to prevent foam breakdown.

The company did not warn consumers of the risk until June 2021, but the company began to receive reports of the PE-PUR foam breakdown in 2011. By delaying the warning to consumers, Philips put more people at risk of harm.

What should you do if you have been affected by a Philips CPAP device?

You can check our list of included devices to see if your CPAP is among them. According to the FDA, users of an affected CPAP device should do the following:

  • Talk with your medical professional about stopping the use of your device. After weighing the risks of exposure to the toxic foam against the effects of untreated sleep apnea, your doctor may advise you to continue using it. You can try to replace your Philips CPAP with a device that is not affected by the recall, but many people have been unable to do so because of the high demand for CPAPs generated by the recall.
  • Register your device with Philips. The company will repair or replace all affected devices, but due to the high volume, this may take significant time. The FDA has also expressed safety concerns about the new silicone-based foam used for the repair. This is currently being investigated but is something to consider if you choose to have your device repaired by Philips.
  • Do not attempt to repair your device yourself. Don’t try to remove the foam. This has the potential to expose you to even more toxic foam breakdown products and can interfere with the function of your device.
  • Do not add a filter to your machine. Attempting to block the foam particles with a filter may lead to insufficient airflow and will not block the toxic gases from the PE-PUR foam breakdown.
  • Avoid using cleaning methods that employ ozone or ultraviolet light. These may accelerate the foam’s breakdown.

Affected people may also want to consider filing a product liability lawsuit to hold Philips accountable for the harm they caused.

Are there currently lawsuits against Philips for the recalled CPAP machines?

Multiple individual lawsuits have been filed against Philips in courts around the country, alleging harm caused by the recalled devices.

In October 2021, a federal court granted a motion to consolidate a number of the currently pending cases. This facilitates the legal process of discovery, where lawyers examine evidence related to the CPAP machine recall, making it easier for individuals to gather the resources to hold this large multinational corporation accountable.

If Philips is found liable for harm caused by these devices, they can be required to pay financial compensation to those affected. For many families, a settlement could offset the significant financial burden that resulted from using the faulty device, including medical costs and lost wages as well as compensation for pain and suffering.

In the unfortunate case that a person lost their life due to using the device, the decedent’s heirs may be eligible for compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit.

If you are considering seeking reparations for your faulty CPAP machine, you should contact an experienced product liability lawyer. Don’t delay, as the statute of limitations gives you a small window of time after diagnosis in which you can file a claim.

At Levin & Perconti, our attorneys have decades of experience in product liability. Contact us for a free case review to determine whether you might be eligible to file a claim