June 20, 2013 — The first Da Vinci Surgical Robot lawsuit to go to trial has returned a defense verdict, according to a report by the American Association of Justice (AAJ). The lawsuit was filed by the family of Fred Taylor, a man who died of complications that occurred during a robotic prostatectomy. The Washington state jury found that Intuitive Surgical was not liable for Mr. Taylor’s injuries because they adequately warned his doctor not to perform the surgery on morbidly obese patients.
Lawyers for Mr. Taylor’s family have vowed to appeal the verdict. They are also confident that it will not impact nearly 30 additional robot surgery lawsuits currently pending against Intuitive Surgical. Lawyers for the family of Mr. Taylor stated:
“This was a very difficult case, and most of the cases people are going to have are going to be easier than this one. … The doctor was told not to operate on overweight patients, and he did it anyway, and that was a hard fact to get around.”
During the trial, Dr. Bildsten testified that Intuitive Surgical deemed him capable of using the Da Vinci Surgical Robot after only one day of training and two supervised operations. Soon after this training was complete, Dr. Bildsten performed his first unsupervised operation on Mr. Taylor, an overweight man.
The surgery should have been a routine prostatectomy, but Mr. Taylor developed severe complications that ultimately led to his death in 2012. Complications included a stroke, kidney damage, heart failure, and brain damage.
Many other lawsuits have been filed on behalf of patients who suffered burns and electrocutions caused by malfunctioning robotic equipment. Last month, Intuitive warned that the monopolar scissors (also known as “Hot Shears”) may have invisible micro-cracks in their insulation that can allow electricity to arc outside the surgical area.