A Washington judge this week threw out Intuitive Surgical’s (NSDQ:ISRG) bid to dismiss a lawsuit claiming the company failed to provide doctors with sufficient training on the da Vinci robot-assisted surgical system.
The lawsuit was filed by the family of Fred Taylor who in 2008 underwent prostate removal by a doctor using the da Vinci device without supervision. The lawsuit claims improper use of the da Vinci system was at fault for a slew of injuries and the eventual heart failure that took Taylor’s life.
Taylor’s procedure was the 1st time his surgeon had used the da Vinci system without supervision, and the lawsuit faults Intuitive for allegedly encouraging doctors to perform solo surgeries before they’re ready. Taylor’s family claims that the company is responsible for the kidney failure, brain damage, incontinence and rectal tears that he suffered, according to a Bloomberg report.
The complaint alleges that sales reps pushed hospitals to scale back the expensive and time-consuming programs to train surgeons on the devices, including 1 case in which a sales manager urged reps not to "let proctoring or credentialing get in the way" of procedure volume goals, according to the news service.
The judge’s decision to permit the trial to proceed doesn’t reflect on the merits of the case, but simply indicates that the court is willing to consider the complaint, Intuitive Surgical spokeswoman Angela Wonson told reporters.
The medical device maker had attempted to have the case dismissed as "an educational malpractice claim," which most states don’t accept, according to Intuitive’s lawyers. Washington Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Jay Roof concluded that state laws require that medical device makers train healthcare providers on proper use of their products.
In almost all of 10 lawsuits filed over the past 15 months, the plaintiffs cite Intuitive’s training regimen as a factor in the injuries allegedly suffered because of the da Vinci device.
The medical device company has had a run of bad luck lately as a few stark headlines dragged shares down more than 20% over the course of this month. ISRG shares dropped 11% in 1 day on February 28 on news that the FDA was conducting a survey of da Vinci robot users, asking for details about an apparent rise in complications associated with the device and seeking tips on best use and training.
Intuitive Surgical later explained that what appeared to be a rise in da Vinci complication rates was actually a reflection of new reporting practices rather than a change in product performance.