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State Supreme Court Rules Plaintiff Can Proceed with Failure to Warn Claim Against Surgical Robot Manufacturer

Intuitive Surgical, the company who developed and markets the da Vinci surgical robot, is facing another lawsuit challenging the sufficiency of the warnings that the manufacturer provided with the device. Recently, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that a plaintiff could proceed with a product liability lawsuit on behalf of her deceased husband against Intuitive Surgical. In his complaint, the plaintiff alleged that he suffered serious physical injuries during a prostatectomy using the da Vinci surgical device. According to the plaintiff’s allegations, the physician who performed the surgery noticed during the procedure that the plaintiff’s rectal wall had suffered lacerations. As a result of this complication, the physician had to perform immediate open surgery to repair the lacerations.

Following the surgery, the husband reported experiencing a serious reduction in his quality of life. During ventilation, the husband experienced respiratory failure requiring ventilation, renal failure, and an infection. The husband’s complaint also alleged that he was required to wear a colostomy bag and that he also experienced incontinence. The complaint also alleged neuromuscular damage and that the husband was unable to work correctly without assistance. Roughly four years after the procedure, the husband died. According to a physician who testified on behalf of the plaintiff, the da Vinci robot’s malfunction was a contributing factor in the husband’s death.

In her complaint, the plaintiff named a number of individuals as defendants, including the physician who performed the surgery, the medical practice where he worked, and Intuitive Surgical, the manufacturer of the device. After a trial, the jury returned a verdict concluding that Intuitive Surgical provided sufficient warnings with the device. They based their verdict on evidence offered at trial suggesting that the physician who operated on the husband ignored three critical instructions when using the device: 1) to refrain from performing a prostatectomy with the device on a patient who was medically obese; 2) to refrain from performing a prostatectomy using the device on a patient who had previous abdominal surgery; and 3) to always position patients undergoing a procedure involving the da Vinci robot in a specific manner.

The appellate court denied the plaintiff’s request for a rehearing. It rejected her contention that the jury should have been instructed that Intuitive Surgical had a duty to warn the hospital and the surgeon. The plaintiff appealed the denial to the Washington Supreme Court, which reversed the lower court’s ruling. In doing so, the high court stated that a “manufacturer’s duty to warn purchasing hospitals is not excused when a manufacturer warns doctors who use the devices because hospitals need to know the dangers of their own products . . .” The court also stated that this duty cannot be absolved simply by a manufacturer’s communication of the warnings to the hospital.

If you have suffered injuries as the result of a surgical procedure involving the Intuitive Surgical da Vinci robot, you may be entitled to compensation. At Moll Law Group, we proudly serve injury victims and their families throughout the United States, including California, Florida, and Texas. Our firm is actively investigating cases involving the da Vinci surgical robot. Based in Chicago, we offer a free consultation to help you learn more about how we can help you seek the justice you deserve. Call us now at 312-462-1700 or contact us online.

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