Carbone Lawyers launches class action against Philips over global recall of sleep therapy machine

Herald Sun @AnthonyPiovesan October 4, 2021

A man has detailed scary symptoms after using a popular device as he joins 1500 Australians in a class action against a global tech company.

A man who has been coughing up black phlegm every morning for the past five years claims a popular breathing machine sold across Australia and internationally is to blame.

Adelaide father-of-two Peter Lewis says he has forked out $45,000 in medical bills as a result and is now one of 1500 plaintiffs across the country launching a class action against Philips Electronics Australia.

Personal injury firm Carbone Lawyers on Monday issued an originating motion to start a class action in the Federal Court of Australia, arguing each of the plaintiffs sustained injuries and psychological trauma due to alleged defects in a recalled breathing machine, designed to assist people with sleep apnoea.

Mr Lewis used both the REMstar and DreamStation sleep ventilators between 2014 and 2020, following a diagnosis of mild sleep apnoea.

But a year after he first used the machine in 2014, the 57-year-old noticed his health was deteriorating.

“I wasn’t sleeping well, I was waking up with a very dry throat, I was very tired, I had severe headaches, I wasn’t sure what was going on,” Mr Lewis told NCA NewsWire.

“All of a sudden – and I remember the day because I’ve told this story to so many doctors – it was February 22 in 2017 and I was very busy at work and my sense of smell just disappeared, it just went bang, gone.”

Mr Lewis said he visited more than 20 doctors who could not provide him with any answers.

His symptoms then progressively worsened and in 2018 he started to experience issues with digestion.

“I’d literally vomit back up my dinner every night – I was regurgitating my own food,” he said.

Doctors performed stomach corrective surgery, but Mr Lewis still had trouble with his breathing and energy levels.

“I didn’t even have the energy sometimes to get on the bus,” he said.

“I remember walking out of work one day and leaning against a wall three times on the way back to my car huffing and puffing.

“I couldn’t breathe – I twice stopped at an emergency department of a hospital and I’m someone who has had blood tests, cholesterol tests, every test known to man and never had any health problems.”

In July this year, Mr Lewis received a letter from Philips notifying customers of its recall.

“I had to read it four times, all the answers were in here … it explained the whole nightmare from start to finish,” he said.

“They’ve stolen the last five years of my life and I just want to get better and don’t want this to impact the rest of my life.”

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) said a Philips investigation identified the majority of particles released from the devices’ foam were too small to penetrate deep lung tissue, but were likely to remain in a patient’s upper airway.

It warned users could suffer symptoms such as headaches and dizziness, irritation in the eyes, nose, respiratory tract, and skin, asthma, hypersensitivity, nausea and possible carcinogenic effects.

“To date, there is no definitive evidence of long-term harm to patients and there have been no reports of death,” the regulator said.

Carbone Lawyers managing partner Tony Carbone said the class action had potential to be the biggest in Australian history.

“If everyone that’s ever bought one of these units – if you discount the fact there’s probably one or two people out there with more than one machine and let’s assume everyone has two machines – there’s potentially 100,000 plaintiffs – that’s huge,” he said.

In June this year, proceedings began out of the Massachusetts Supreme Court by lawyers in the US.

Mr Carbone said if successful, those proceedings could attract a verdict into the billions of dollars, due to the numbers of plaintiffs and sleep machines sold in the US.

In Federal Court documents seen by NCA NewsWire, lawyers claimed Philips was “negligent in the production, distribution and handling of the recall” and demanded the cost of the devices and customers’ medical bills be reimbursed.

Lawyers were also requesting compensation for income loss, pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.

Philips was unable to comment on any pending legal action, but said analysis of potential health risks as a result of the machines was ongoing.

“We cannot stress enough that Philips is treating this matter with the highest level of seriousness and is dedicating significant time and resources to address this issue,” it said.

“Our intention is to give affected patients and customers the service they expect and deserve as we work to resolve this matter as our top priority.”

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