A settlement for an undisclosed amount was reached during a San Jose jury trial last week involving Intuitive Surgical; the company that created the da Vinci surgical robot system. The plaintiff in the case was originally seeking $10 million for her injuries.
Da Vinci robots were used in over 600,000 surgeries last year and the system is capable of aiding surgeons with everything from hysterectomies to prostatectomies. The systems are also used in heart surgery, kidney transplants, and hip replacements. Based on the numbers, it is a successful platform responsible for smaller incisions and decreased infections.
It is also responsible for at least 144 deaths and over 1,000 injuries spanning a wide variety of failures. These failures include physical breakage inside the patient’s body and electrocution as live wires become exposed during use resulting in actual sparks being generated.
The FDA began investigating the da Vinci surgical robot back in 2013. That investigation led to a class 2 recall of the device and the announcement that the robots may not have been tested properly prior to their deployment.
When the San Jose case was first filed by plaintiff Michelle Zarick for injuries sustained seven years ago in a robotically-assisted hysterectomy, Intuitive Surgical denied any liability. The manufacturer tried to shift responsibility to Zarick, claiming that she failed to follow her surgeon’s post-operative care instructions which included avoiding sexual activity while her sutures healed.
Zarick suffered a “massive” infection as the result of her hysterectomy. Her attorneys contend that Intuitive knew about potential problems with the da Vinci platform as early as 2007 and only informed customers of those issues in 2011.
Jurors were divided after learning that the case had settled, with seven of the 12 indicating that they were actually favoring Intuitive in the trial. Some felt that questions still remained over the exact cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.
After Intuitive’s settlement offer was accepted, one of Zarick’s attorneys said they were “grinning ear to ear” at the undisclosed amount, which included compensation for physical suffering, mental distress, and economic losses.