A Washington State Court Judge denied a bid on March 25, 2013 to throw out a lawsuit against Intuitive Surgical, Inc. The judge determined that medical-device makers must properly train physicians who purchase their products, according to the state’s product-liability laws. Nearly a dozen lawsuits have been filed since 2011 against Intuitive Surgical alleging personal injury or wrongful death tied to robot-surgery systems.
Intuitive Surgical makes surgical robots that were used in over 300,000 operations in 1,371 hospitals in the U.S. last year. Reportedly, Intuitive Surgical’s robots cost around $1.5 million each and generated most of the company’s $2.2 billion 2012 revenue. Allegations against the company state that its push to hurry revenue growth resulted in insufficient training on the robots. The family of Fred Taylor seeks damages for “harm allegedly cause by the improper marketing of the da Vinci surgical system.”
According to Taylor’s family, a 2008 prostate removal procedure led to brain damage, kidney failure, a 1-inch tear in his rectum, permanent incontinence, and, finally, death by heart failure. The family alleges that Taylor’s surgery was the doctor’s first unsupervised surgery with the robot, and that Intuitive Surgical officials failed to adequately train doctors on the system and recommended doctors perform surgeries without supervision too quickly. The family contends that several mistakes were made by the doctor, one of which was deciding to rely on the robot at all.
According to officials, an increasing number of reports of surgical robot injuries are being received. Meanwhile, Intuitive Surgical contends that medical malpractice claims should be brought against doctors, rather than product liability claims. However, product-liability laws in Washington dictate that medical-device makers do, in fact, have a duty to provide adequate training to doctors.
This case will go to trial and the starting trial date is set for April 15, 2013.
Product liability laws can vary from state to state so individuals, or their loved ones, who have suffered personal injury from robot-surgery systems should contact an attorney to determine if a product liability or medical malpractice lawsuit is the best option.