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Stamford law firm levels lawsuit against multinational conglomerate Philips for faulty ventilators

August 13, 2021

By Veronica Del Valle | Stamford Advocate | STAMFORD, CT (August 12, 2021)  — A Stamford-based law firm is representing clients in a class action lawsuit against multinational electronics giant Philips after a sweeping recall of some of its ventilators left clients saying they are waiting indefinitely for relief or replacements.

According to the suit, filed by Silver Golub & Teitell, Philips recalled a series of its ventilators in June 2021 that use a polyester-based foam as noise abatement. The company issued a recall after it found that a defective component — known as PE-PUR foam — can irritate users’ airways by emitting small particles into their lungs.

The personal injury law firm Silver Golub & Teitell LLP is where U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal practiced before getting the nod for Attorney General. Photo by Michael Cummo / Hearst Connecticut Media

Across 17 different products, Philips expects to recall between three and four million ventilators and sleep apnea devices, known as Continuous Positive Airway Pressure or CPAP machines. The American Sleep Association estimates that most CPAP machines cost about $850, but some of the Philips ventilators marketed for more than $1,200.

That hefty price tag forms one of the points of the three class action suits against Philips. To replace these ventilators — which some of the plaintiffs say they require to stay alive — the law firm argues that all users must take a considerable hit to their wallets, especially because they say the Philips “recall program provides no relief for users of the ... devices.”

To date, consumers have lodged “several complaints about the presence of black debris/particles within the device’s air pathway” according to the Food and Drug Administration. The company has also received reports of “headache, upper airway irritation, cough, chest pressure and sinus infection,” though the FDA said the symptoms could not be linked to the defective foam with certainty.

Philips released a warning after the products were recalled, saying long-term exposure to the foam in question could also cause respiratory issues, hypersensitivity, nausea and vomiting along with other “possible toxic and carcinogenic effects.”

"We’ve heard some people who have decided that they had to keep using the machine despite the health risks,” said Ian Sloss, an attorney for Silver Golub & Teitell. “People have said things like, ‘I have to use this machine that could be poisoning me, but I can’t drive if I don’t sleep. I can’t sleep unless I use this machine, and I can’t afford to go buy (a) $1,000 machine.’”

Philips told The Stamford Advocate that “given the number of devices currently in use (... about half are in the U.S.), [it is] not able to provide an immediate solution at this time.” However, spokesman Mario Fante said the company is “producing repair kits and replacement devices in large quantities” to ease the burden of the loss.

“We fully understand the impact that this is having on patients, as their well-being is at the heart of everything we do at Philips,” Fante said.

The details of the recall are also contested in the lawsuit. Currently, Philips asks machine users to register their devices online to receive a repair kit or replacement.

“They also give absolutely no timeline as to when you can expect this to happen,” Sloss said.

The CPAP machines and ventilators are Philip’s second major recall of the year. Almost immediately after it recalled its first set of ventilators, the company also pulled thousands of high-powered ventilators from the shelves. At least 61 adverse incidents and 25 injuries have been linked to the defects, with no deaths reported, according to the FDA.

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