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Lawsuit Filed Against Philips Over Defective CPAP Machines That May Cause Cancer

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July 20, 2021

Milberg Coleman Bryson Phillips Grossman has filed a class action lawsuit against Philips North America after the Cambridge-based health tech conglomerate recalled several CPAP machines, BiPAP machines, APAP machines, and ventilators because of a dangerous defect that can cause users to inhale pieces of polyester-based polyurethane (PE-PUR) foam.

Attorneys Randi Kassan, Mitchell Breit, Blake Hunter Yagman, Daniel K. Bryson, and Patrick M. Wallace filed the complaint in the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts on behalf of California resident Diana Ramirez and all consumers similarly affected by the breathing devices.

A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine is used to treat sleep apnea, a serious and common disorder that can lead to heart problems, liver problems, type 2 diabetes, and other health issues. The machine increases air pressure so that a person’s airway doesn’t collapse while they’re sleeping. More than 1 million people use these types of devices.

Bi-level positive airway pressure (BiPAP) and automatic positive airway pressure (APAP) machines adjust the breathing in different ways, but they are also used to treat sleep apnea.

In a June 14 recall of 15 different apnea machines and ventilators, Philips acknowledged that the sound abatement foam can break off of these devices and potentially be inhaled and even ingested by the person using the machine. PE-PUR foam includes organic compounds that may be cancer-causing. In the recall announcement, Philips said that these foam hazards could result in “serious injury which can be life-threatening or cause permanent impairment.”

Philips also stated, “The potential risks of particulate exposure include headache, irritation, inflammation, respiratory issues, and possible toxic and carcinogenic effects. The potential risks of chemical exposure due to off-gassing include headache, irritation, hypersensitivity, nausea/vomiting, and possible toxic and carcinogenic effects.”

According to Philips, the following products – all of which are subject to the lawsuit – have the defect:

  • E30
  • DreamStation (ASV)
  • DreamStation (ST, AVAPS)
  • SystemOne (ASV4)
  • C Series
  • OmniLab Advanced Plus
  • SystemOne (Q Series)
  • DreamStation (CPAP, Auto CPAP, BiPAP)
  • DreamStation GO (CPAP, APAP)
  • Dorma 400, 500 (CPAP)
  • REMStar SE Auto (CPAP)
  • Trilogy 100 (ventilator)
  • Trilogy 200 (ventilator)
  • Garbin Plus, Aeris, Lifevent (ventilator)
  • A-Series BiPAP V30 Auto (ventilator)

The complaint alleges that Philips has known about the defect since at least 2018, because of a rash of customer complaints. If true, this would mean that the company was aware of the dangers of its machines for at least two years before warning consumers – and for two and a half years before actually recalling the devices.

Among the charges levied against Philips are failure to warn, defective design, negligent design, breach of warranty, and unjust enrichment. Impacted consumers are seeking compensatory, exemplary, and statutory damages. According to the lawsuit, economic damages may include the following:

  • “The loss in value of accessories needed in order to make the Affected Products function”
  • The cost of new devices, which consumers may need to purchase in order to breathe properly
  • Medical expenses related to the product’s defect and ensuing harm
  • Any other economic costs that result from purchasing or receiving one of the defective products

The complaint also notes that, due to the increase in ventilator sales during the COVID-19 pandemic, Philips may have had “further incentive to conceal the truth with respect to the existence of the Defect.”

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