Robotic surgery was first introduced in the 1980’s and, since then, has become an increasingly common addition to a surgical procedure. Robotic surgeries are known to reduce fatigue as well as the stress which is often experienced by a surgeon.
In addition, robotic surgeries are known for using steady robotic arms. They are often used in surgeries which involve:
- Gallbladder removals;
- Hysterectomies; and
- Cancer operations.
Intuitive Surgical introduced the da Vinci surgical system in 2000. This system gained notoriety all throughout the healthcare system.
The da Vinci surgical system is installed in over 2,900 hospitals nationwide. It has been used in millions of surgical procedures.
In the year 2017 alone, there were more than 693,000 procedures which were robotic-assisted in the United States. Intuitive Surgical dominates the surgical-assisted market and Stryker comes in second.
There are, however, smaller companies such as Mazor Robotics and Corindus, which are growing in the market. There are also other companies and systems always emerging as the technology grows and changes.
Although technology is capable of accomplishing great feats, it is not without fault. There are numerous lawsuits which allege injuries that were caused by robotic surgical systems.
For example, there were many patients who claimed that the da Vinci robotic arm failed to release the patient’s tissue during surgery. Additionally, in certain extreme cases, death of the patient has occurred.
As a result of these issues, Intuitive Surgical has become a defendant in lawsuits which seek damages under the theories of product liability and wrongful death. In addition, some 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 numerous errors which are related to the da Vinci Surgical System. For example, the robotic hand has reportedly failed to release patient tissue during procedures or as perforated a nearby organ.
In some hysterectomy operations, an improper suturing of the vaginal cuff has been reported. In addition to punctured tissues and organs, patients have also suffered from other issues after having robotic-assisted surgery, including:
- Electrical burns;
- Internal scarring;
- Sexual dysfunction;
- Incontinence; and
- Other complications.
As noted above, in the most serious of cases, death has occurred.
When Do You File a Lawsuit Over Robotic Surgery?
When a patient is injured as a result of a robotic surgery, it may be possible for them to seek compensation for their injuries through the court system. Robotic surgery lawsuits may be classified under the legal theory of product liability.
Robotic surgery lawsuits may also include claims for medical malpractice and wrongful death, if the patient passed away as a result of the surgery. If a plaintiff is successful in their claim, they may be awarded monetary damages as compensation for their injuries as well as to aid with their physical, emotional, and financial recovery.
What is a Defective Product?
In a claim which involves product liability, a product may have:
- A design defect;
- A manufacturing defect; or
- A defect in the product’s warnings.
In a robotic surgery lawsuit, the most common claim is there was a design defect. This means that there was an inherent flaw in the design of the product.
Intuitive Surgical has faced numerous lawsuits which allege there was a design defect in the surgical tips which are used with the da Vinci robotic arm. Any products, including products which are used in robotic surgeries, can be considered defective products if they cause harm due to their defective designs, defective manufacturing, or the failure of the company to provide adequate warnings or instructions.
A company risks liability for a product when it is aware that there is a foreseeable risk associated with a product and it fails to address the issue. In many cases, if there is an issue with the design, manufacturing, or labeling of a product, it opens up the company to a class action lawsuit.
How Can I Win a Defective Product Lawsuit Against a Surgical Robot Company?
In order for a plaintiff, or injured party, to prevail in a defective product lawsuit against a company, it is very important to have legal representation. An experienced attorney who specializes in defective product lawsuits must be able to show the following elements:
- The surgical robot had a dangerous defect;
- The patient suffered an injury due to the use of the the surgical robot in the manner in which it was intended to be used by the manufacturer; and
- The patient was injured by the product, and the product had not been altered from when it was purchased.
It is important to note that it may be possible for a plaintiff to hurt their chances for success, depending on their actions following their surgery. For example, whether or not the patient completely ignored or followed all of their post-operative care requirements.
In addition, whether or not the plaintiff was told not to perform certain actions and ignored those directions, which led to broken stitches or further injuries. These issues, however, will depend upon the jurisdiction in which the case is located and how it handles compensatory damages.
It is essential for a plaintiff to be completely honest with their attorney and provide them with a complete timeline and the nature of their injuries. In certain cases, it may be possible to prove strict liability.
Strict liability claims can be brought when products have inherent defects which result in injuries. This applies when, through proper use of the product, an injury would still occur.
If a plaintiff is successful in a strict liability claim, even if they were negligent in their post-operative care, they may still be able to recover damages.
Is a Defective Product Lawsuit the Same as Medical Malpractice?
No, a defective product lawsuit is not the same as a medical malpractice lawsuit. Medical malpractice lawsuits relate to the care which is provided to patients. Healthcare providers, including doctors, nurses, and hospitals, can be held liable for a patient’s injuries if their actions fell below the standard of care for their profession.
For example, if a hospital failed to train the surgeons who work there regarding the proper use of any form of robotic surgery technology, the hospital may be liable for the injuries sustained by a plaintiff as a result of improper care. If this occurs, the case would not be based on product liability but, rather, on medical malpractice.
In this type of medical malpractice claim, the physician and the hospital would be named as defendants in the lawsuit and not the company which designed or created the device, as it would be in a product liability lawsuit.
Do I Need a Lawyer for a Defective Robotic Surgery Claim?
It is essential to have the assistance of a defective products lawyer for any issues, questions, or concerns you may have regarding a robotic surgery claim. A defective robotic surgery claim can be very complex and requires the expertise of a lawyer with knowledge of the laws governing product liability and medical malpractice.
If you were injured due to a robotic-assisted surgery, contact a lawyer as soon as possible. Your lawyer will review your case, assist you with gathering the necessary medical evidence, and represent you any time you are required to appear in court.