Consolidation Proposed for da Vinci Surgical Robot Lawsuits

Consolidation Proposed for da Vinci Surgical Robot LawsuitsA plaintiff who has filed a lawsuit against Intuitive Surgical, the maker of the da Vinci Surgical System has filed a motion seeking to have all similar claims involving injuries alleged to have been caused by the surgical robot consolidated in multidistrict litigation (MDL). The motion, filed on May 9 with U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, proposed that the da Vinci surgery MDL be centralized in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, before Judge Carlton Wayne Reeves. The filing also proposed the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, where Intuitive Surgical is based, as an alternative venue.

As we’ve reported previously, Intuitive Surgical received clearance from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to market the da Vinci Surgical Robot in 2000, and it is now used to perform a large number of surgeries, including heart bypass and valve repair operations, hysterectomies, prostate removal surgeries, weight loss surgery, and surgical treatment of ladder, kidney, colorectal, gynecological, prostate and throat cancers. According to a report published by The Los Angeles Times last fall, use of the da Vinci Robot quadrupled in the last four years, and it is now used in at least 2,000 hospitals around the world. The massive robot, which can cost hospitals as much as $2 million to purchase, is controlled remotely from a console, while the robot’s arms are placed into the patient for burning away tissue in order to remove the diseased organs.

At least four lawsuits alleging the da Vinci Surgical Robot has caused severe internal injuries, including burns, tears and other complications, some of which have resulted in death or chronic pain and disability, have been filed in federal courts around the country. Among other things, da Vinci Surgical Robot lawsuits fault the aggressive marketing tactics used by Intuitive to convince hospitals to purchase the expensive surgical robot, and allege that a combination of design flaws inherent in the robot, coupled with poor physician training on the device, has resulted in serious injuries.

An MDL allows lawsuits associated with a particular product to be coordinated under one judge for pretrial litigation to avoid duplicative discovery, inconsistent rulings and to conserve the resources of the parties, witnesses and the court. When lawsuits are consolidated as a multidistrict litigation, each retains its own identity. If the multidistrict litigation process does not resolve the cases, they are transferred back to the court where they originated for trial.

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