Supply Chain Issues Delay Philips CPAP Repair/Replacement

by | Nov 9, 2021 | Injuries

If you have a defective sleep apnea breathing machine and you are waiting for Philips to make things right, you might be in for a very long wait.

The unexpected recall of these gadgets has forced millions of people to choose between a good night’s rest and the possibility of cancer or other serious illness. “Probably about a third of my patients, they have such severe apnea, such severe sleepiness, that they continue to wear the machine even though this notice is out because they basically aren’t functional without it,” one doctor explained. In September 2021, Philips promised to begin the repair/replacement process. However, the Food and Drug Administration recently placed these machines on the device shortage list, mostly because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Another doctor said his patients were in a quandary. “When we talk about a risk-benefit discussion, you want to know the risk because we do know the benefits, by and large, of CPAP. But, unfortunately, we’re a bit in the dark about the risk of this.”

Building a Case

The likelihood of using a defective CPAP machine and developing cancer might be remote. But if you are one of the unlucky victims, this statistical improbability is very small comfort.

Sleep apnea in any form makes it almost impossible to get a good night’s sleep. The person’s primary airwave collapses, resulting in loud snoring or even worse symptoms. Sleep apnea breathing amchines have been around for quite some time. However, most of these air compressors were so noisy that they kept patients and their partners awake. In other words, the cure was just as bad as the disease, or maybe even worse.

Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle are two of the biggest sleep apnea risk factors. Unfortunately, most Americans are obese or live mostly sedentary lifestyles.

Then, engineers at Philips had what seemed like a brilliant idea. They surrounded the motor with a layer of polyurethane foam to deaden the sound. The Amsterdam-based company soon sold millions of these machines worldwide.

Polyurethane is one of the most toxic substances known to mankind. However, as long as the foam remains in one piece, like the foam in a mattress or cushion, it’s not harmful.

Unfortunately for users, the CPAP machine’s vibrations broke up the foam padding, Tiny particles could then enter the air hose and travel directly into the user’s body. One microscopic particle could be enough to cause lung cancer.

In terms of legal liability for injury damages, manufacturers are usually strictly liable for the illnesses or injuries their defective products cause. The underlying problem in a defective CPAP machine could be a:

  • Manufacturing Defect: Some polyurethane foams are more stable than others. The stable ones are also the expensive ones. Many product makers prefer to use cheap materials which could cause injury. In other words, they blatantly put profits before people.
  • Design Defect: Some products are dangerous before they even get off the drawing board. Most likely, Philips engineers should have known that a CPAP machine’s vibrations would eventually break up the foam lining. But they put these gadgets into production anyway. 

Failure to warn is sometimes an independent basis for an injury claim in these situations. Frequently, manufacturers are aware of potential problems. Yet they do not even bother to warn customers about the elevated risk.

Possible Defenses

Strict liability does not mean automatic liability. These claims are simply easier for a Lexington personal injury attorney to prove in court, so victims can obtain maximum compensation. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Frequently, manufacturers try to shift blame onto other parties, such as the victims themselves. More on that below.

Shifting the blame onto a doctor is an even more common strategy. This approach, if successful, eliminated manufacturer liability. It also usually reduces the amount of compensation victims receive. Jurors are hesitant to award large damages in these cases. Frequently, the doctors are well-meaning individuals who just go a little too far.

Misuse defenses are common as well. For example, Philips might claim the victim used the wrong setting, failed to properly maintain the defective CPAP machine, or did not properly react to warning signs.

Such misuse defenses often do not hold up in court. Usually, they only apply if the misuse was unforeseeable.

Falling while standing on a ladder’s top rung is a good example. Most ladders have warning stickers that tell people not to put excessive weight on the top rung. But people regularly ignore these safety warnings, and the manufacturers know this. Consequently, they are usually liable for resulting injuries. If the misuse is foreseeable, the manufacturer has a duty to make the product safe, not just wag their fingers at victims.

Injury victims are usually entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. After-hours, home, virtual, and hospital visits are available. #goodelawyers