Robot Maker Wins First Case, But Faces More Trials

In 2008, Fred Taylor underwent surgery to remove his prostate. His procedure was performed with a surgical robot, but, after complications, his surgeon had to resort to traditional methods to complete the operation. For the next 4 years, Taylor suffered from complications linked to surgical errors, which eventually led to his death.

In May 2013, a jury found that Intuitive Surgical Inc., the maker of the da Vinci Surgical System used on Taylor, was not legally responsible for Taylor’s injuries. Taylor’s family had brought suit against Intuitive Surgical Inc., claiming that they were negligent in their training practices. There are at least 25 pending lawsuits against Intuitive, and some feel as though the loss of the first trial is bad news for other plaintiffs.

Fred Taylor’s case, however, was very unique and is not necessarily a good measure of how future juries will respond to future cases.

Negligence Killed Fred Taylor

151811990Fred Taylor died because of negligence — there is no doubt about that. In his case, the surgeon’s negligence was the primary cause of death. During his prostatectomy, Taylor’s surgeon, Scott Bildsten, failed to maintain safe water and air pressure, which caused severe and irreversible damage to his internal organs. He suffered brain damage and a stroke. Taylor was a victim of medical malpractice.

Fred Taylor’s surgery was the first unsupervised robotic surgery that Bildsten ever performed. This was the foundation of the case against Intuitive. Doctors are certified to use their robotic systems after a 1-day seminar and 2 supervised surgeries. The Taylor family’s lawyers claimed that this was not sufficient in order to ensure that surgeons could safely operate the device and that it put patients at risk.

Bildsten, however, neglected to heed warnings that specifically restricted the use of the da Vinci Surgical Robot on obese patients. Taylor had a body mass index of 39, putting him in the category of morbidly obese. This should have immediately disqualified Taylor from robotic surgery.

Verdict Does Not Absolve Intuitive of All Responsibility

The surgeon’s actions and Taylor’s other health concerns made this case against Intuitive Surgical Inc. difficult to prove. The jury’s verdict, however, does not mean that the training practices of the surgical robot manufacturer are not insufficient. Surgeons are considered qualified to perform surgeries with robots after hardly any training: a 1-day seminar and 2 supervised surgeries. Companies who sell medical technologies are responsible for ensuring that doctor’s are adequately trained to use them safely. Not doing so is negligent.

While Taylor’s case was more characteristic of malpractice than a defective product, many of the injuries caused by the da Vinci system were caused by the malfunction of the robot. Injuries that have occurred include perforations, burn and tears. These horrific injuries are due in part to poorly taught technique, but also defects in the robot itself.

Manufacturers Are Responsible for their Products

When a surgery performed via robot goes bad, the damage can be tremendous. Life-long complications and wrongful death can cause physical, emotional and financial suffering for families. Sometimes, these injuries can be traced back to the negligence of the manufacturer. In that case, the manufacturer must be held responsible for the pain they caused. If you or a loved one was injured during a surgery performed with a surgical robot, please contact us immediately. You may be eligible for compensation. We provide a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced attorneys to discuss your legal rights.

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