Da Vinci Robotic Surgery Lawsuit Resolves with Settlement
Michelle Zarick underwent a routine hysterectomy in 2009 that was performed with sophisticated robot-assisted technology manufactured by Intuitive Surgical Inc. Robotic surgery is intended to allow for greater viewing of the surgical field, a reduced risk of complications, and many other benefits. But Zarick and many other patients have claimed that the da Vinci robotic devices can malfunction, causing serious injuries.
Zarick sued Intuitive Surgical for $30 million in damages, but in the midst of jury deliberations, the defendants finally agreed to settle the case.
Robotic surgery settlement
The trial had been proceeding in a California state court. Zarick’s da Vinci robot lawsuit alleged that while she was undergoing the hysterectomy with the Da Vinci platform, the scissor attachment of the robotic device transmitted a surge of electricity that injured her bowels. After the surgery, her bowels protruded through the vagina. Zarick was forced to undergo an emergency surgery to repair the problem.
The pretrial filings indicated that the plaintiff had originally planned to sue Intuitive Surgical for $300 million in damages. At the conclusion of the two-week trial; however, the plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury to award $30 million when they made their closing arguments.
Meanwhile, counsel for Intuitive Surgical had tried to convince the jury that Zarick’s injuries were not caused by defects in the robot-assisted platform, but rather were caused by her failure to comply with post-operative directions. Ultimately, the defendants decided to agree to the undisclosed settlement amount to get the case dismissed before the jury could return with a verdict. The settlement agreement is not an admission of liability and the defendants continue to assert that their medical devices are safe for patients.
“The company stands behind our products and the work our employees do to advance high-quality minimally invasive surgery,” said Justin Higgs, a spokesperson for Intuitive Surgical Inc. Higgs noted that the defense presented “strong” scientific evidence during the course of the trial that highlighted the safety of the Da Vinci robot device.
Concerns over robotic surgery
Zarick’s lawsuit was just the second such case to go to trial against Intuitive Surgical regarding alleged complications from the da Vinci device. The case was also only the second civil case to be recorded and webcast in Santa Clara County, CA. When discussing his decision to allow the webcast, presiding Judge Mark Pierce said that “people have a right to know.”
The news of the settlement may give hope to the plaintiffs who are currently awaiting their day in court. Another robotic surgery case is scheduled to go to trial in May 2016 and there are about 20 other pending lawsuits against Intuitive Surgical. “Intuitive and I will probably re-examine whether that trial needs to go,” said a spokesperson in regards to the lawsuit scheduled for trial in May.
The da Vinci platform has been used in hundreds of thousands of procedures, including 600,000 in 2015 alone. The technology was first approved for use in 2000; however, concerns have been growing regarding potential safety issues. Since 2009, there have been at least 70 deaths that have been allegedly associated with robotic surgery.
- CVN, $30M Surgical Robot Defect Trial Settles During Jury Deliberations, http://blog.cvn.com/30m-surgical-robot-defect-trial-settles-during-jury-deliberations
- MedlinePlus, Robotic Surgery, https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/007339.htm