Victims of Surgical Robot Accident Ask to Centralize and Transfer Cases

(May 19, 2012) On May 9, two victims of a surgical robot, which caused them injury, filed a motion to the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to centralize and transfer all federal surgical robot cases, as they claim that all legal theories and facts asserted in such cases are “virtually identical and arise from the common conduct of the defendants in designing, manufacturing, selling and putting into the stream of commerce their defective products.”

Similar cases in the federal court system are allowed to be centralized to aid in the judicial economy of minimizing taxpayer money, as well as the time of the judges, lawyers, and parties involved, in trying similar cases. In addition, transferring cases is appropriate where it will prevent duplication of discovery and eliminate the possibility of overlapping or inconsistent pleading determinations by different courts.

These victims allege that they sustained severe and permanent injuries during a January 2010 robotic hysterectomy in which the Intuitive da Vinci surgical system was used.  They also claim that “the use of this robotic device in surgery presents substantial risks of complications and injuries, including burns, tears, bleeding, hemotomas, sepsis, and fistulas. More specifically, the robotic device can cause damage to the bowel, blood vessels, arteries, uterus, and vaginal cuff. In addition, due to lengthened time of surgery, patients are unnecessarily exposed to anesthesia for a dangerous period of time.”

The victims claim that the da Vinci device is defective, relying upon monopolar energy, as opposed to the presumed safer bipolar energy, used to cut, burn, and cauterize tissue.

The victims believe the Southern District of Mississippi, Eastern Division, is an appropriate forum to hear these cases since it does not currently have any multi-district litigation (MDL) cases. They also believe the Northern District of California would be convenient for everyone, since it is the home of Intuitive’s corporate headquarters and operations.

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