Robot Surgery Defect Trial Seeks Accountability of Manufacturer

Robotic surgery has become increasingly commonplace in recent years, with robotic surgery centers in Miami, Coconut Creek, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and more. robot

Robotically-assisted surgery has been around since the 1980s, with manufacturers insisting such procedures can be carried out with greater precision and control. The surgeon is relieved of stress, tension and fatigue, particularly during longer operations. In addition to stamina, robots can be incredibly steady and precise.

But, they are not without flaws. Take for example the da Vinci surgical system, manufactured by Intuitive Surgical. It’s been used in nearly 2 million surgeries across the globe and in more than 1,400 hospitals in the U.S. Most often, it’s used for cancer procedures, removal of gallbladders and hysterectomies. However, there have been a number of cases in which the systems reportedly fail or don’t work exactly as intended. There are some reports of the machines not properly releasing human tissue. In other cases, faulty surgical tips caused injuries. 

In the recent case of Zarick v. Intuitive Surgical, plaintiff has filed a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer, alleging the robotic arms used at the time (seven years ago) during a hysterectomy caused her severe internal injuries.

The company has shot back that it isn’t to blame, instead shifting culpability onto plaintiff, whom they say ignored the surgeon’s advice to refrain from sexual intercourse following surgery and also grappling with her husband physically while the sutures were still on the mend.

Plaintiff is seeking $300 million in damages, and the case is being watched closely by shareholders of the robotics company. The trial is being live-streamed by Courtroom View Network, a company started by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer’s son.

The case is being tried in the Superior Court of California in Santa Clara County.

Plaintiff alleges:

  • products liability
  • negligence
  • breach of express warranty
  • breach of implied warranty
  • unjust enrichment
  • loss of consortium (by her husband)
  • lack of informed consent

Plaintiff contends these devices were marketed through “a program of intimidation,” essentially forcing doctors and hospitals to purchase these devices in order to stay competitive and creating fear that if they did not have this technology, they would lose business to competitors. Yet, plaintiff argues the use of the devices present substantial risk of complications and injuries, including bleeding, tears, burns, fistulas and infection. In addition, patients are under anesthesia for dangerous lengths of time. Plaintiff alleges the robots are defectively designed and defendant failed to warn consumers about the numerous problems with these devices.

Claimant underwent surgery to remove her uterus after being diagnosed with benign ovarian fibroid tumors. Her surgeon recommended use of this robot to complete the surgery.

Five weeks after surgery, plaintiff reported becoming very ill. It got worse after plaintiff said she and her husband, a soldier, engaged in sexual intercourse. Her doctor told her not to worry. Later, while using the restroom, she reportedly heard something “pop” and looked down to see an inch of her intestine descending from her body. She went into shock, but still called 911 and laid down on the floor and elevating her feet on the stairs to prevent further prolapse.

When medical workers saw the situation, they declared it a Code 3 emergency. She underwent emergency surgery, even though the procedure is extremely rare and not well-documented in medical journals. Surgeons at that time discovered a massive infection that required removal of her ovaries and fallopian tubes and removal of necrotic tissue, including parts of her intestines and stomach.

She nearly died, but managed to survive.

The civil trial for damages is expected to last three to four weeks.

If you have been injured in an accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at 888-751-7777 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.

Additional Resources:

Robot Surgery: Trial alleging Intuitive Surgical defect is live-streamed on the web, April 9, 2016, By Tracey Kaplan, San Jose Mercury News

More Blog Entries:

Study: More U.S. Drivers Distracted Than Ever, March 22, 2016, Naples Defective Medical Device Lawyer Blog