First introduced in the 1980’s, robotic surgery has become an increasingly common addition to surgical procedures. Known to reduce fatigue and stress often experienced by surgeons, as well as for having steady robotic arms, robots are often used in surgeries involving gallbladder removals, hysterectomies, and cancer operations.

In 2000, Intuitive Surgical introduced the da Vinci surgical system, which gained notoriety throughout the healthcare system. Installed in over 2,900 hospitals nationwide, the da Vinci system has been used in millions of surgical procedures.

In 2017 alone, more than 693,000 robotic-assisted procedures took place in the United States. Though Intuitive Surgical dominates the market, with Stryker coming in second, other smaller companies, such as Mazor Robotics and Corindus, are growing and new systems continue to emerge.

Though technology can accomplish great feats, it is not without fault. There are a growing number of lawsuits alleging injuries caused by robotic surgical systems. In the instance of the da Vinci robot, many patients claim that the robotic arm failed to release the patient’s tissue during surgery.

In extreme cases, death has occurred. As a result, Intuitive Surgical has become a defendant in lawsuits seeking damages in product liability and wrongful death cases, and doctors and hospitals have also been sued for medical malpractice.

What Injuries Can Happen During a da Vinci Surgical System Robotic Surgery?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reported a number of errors related to the da Vinci Surgical System. For instance, the robotic hand has reportedly failed to release tissue during procedures, or has perforated nearby organs.

In hysterectomy operations, improper suturing of the vaginal cuff have also been reported. In addition to punctured tissue and organs, electrical burns, bleeding, internal scarring, pneumonia, sepsis, sexual dysfunction, incontinence, and other complications have been reported. In the most serious cases, death has occurred.

When Do You File a Lawsuit Over Robotic Surgery?

In the instance that a patient is injured as a result of robotic surgery, it may be possible to seek compensation for those injuries through the courts. A robotic surgery lawsuit could be classified under the legal theory of product liability, and may include a claim of medical malpractice, and/or wrongful death. If the plaintiff is successful in his or her claim, compensation in the form of damages may be awarded to aid the injured party in his or her physical, emotional, and financial recovery.

What is a Defective Product?

In a product liability claim, a product may have a design defect, manufacturing defect, or a defect in the product’s warnings. In robotic surgery lawsuits, the most common claim is a design defect, which means there is an inherent flaw in the product’s design. Intuitive Surgical has faced many lawsuits alleging a design defect in the surgical tips that are used with the da Vinci robotic arm.

Any product, including those used in robotic surgery, may be considered a defective product if it causes harm due to its defective design, defective manufacturing, or the company’s failure to provide adequate warnings or instructions.

Companies risk liability for their products when they know there is a foreseeable risk associated with the product and they fail to address the problem. Commonly, when there is an issue with the design, manufacturing, or labeling of a product, it may open the company up to a class action lawsuit.

How Can I Win a Defective Product Lawsuit Against a Surgical Robot Company?

In order to win a defective product lawsuit against a surgical robot company, it is imperative to have legal representation. Experienced attorneys who specialize in defective product lawsuits must be able to prove the following:

  • There was a dangerous defect in the surgical robot;
  • The patient suffered injury as a result of the surgical robot being used in the way it was intended by the manufacturer; and
  • The patient was injured by the product, and the product had not been altered from when it was purchase.

It is possible to hurt your chances of success, depending on your actions after the surgery. For example, did you completely ignore all post-operative care requirements? Were you told to not perform certain actions and ignore that direction, which resulted in your stitches breaking or further injury?

However, it will depend on the jurisdiction and how they handle compensatory damages. It is important to be honest with your attorney and let them know the complete timeline and nature of your injury. In some cases it may be possible to prove strict liability, that the product had an inherent defect that resulted in the injury. That even through proper use, the injury would still occur. In this situation, even if the plaintiff was negligent in post-care, they would still be able to recover.

Is a Defective Product Lawsuit the Same as Medical Malpractice?

Defective product lawsuits are not the same as medical malpractice, as the latter relates to the care given to patients. Healthcare providers, such as doctors, nurses, and hospitals, may be held liable for a patient’s injuries if the standard of care was not sufficiently met.

For example, if a hospital failed to train its surgeons in the proper use of any type of robotic surgery technology, it may be liable for injuries a patient sustains as a result of improper care. If that was the case, then this would not be considered a defective product lawsuit but a malpractice suit, where the hospital and the physician would be the defendants and not the company that designed/created the device.

Do I Need a Lawyer for a Defective Robotic Surgery Claim?

Defective robotic surgery claims are complicated and require the expertise of an attorney with detailed knowledge of the law relating to product liability. If you have been injured following surgery involving robotic surgery, contact a defective product lawyer as soon as possible. Your lawyer will assist you in building your case, gathering medical evidence, and hiring expert witnesses.