Intuitive Surgical Hid Hundreds of Da Vinci Robot Injuries: Insurance Companies

Two insurance companies claim that Intuitive Surgical withheld information about more than 700 injury claims involving complications with the da Vinci surgical robot, arguing that insurance policies providing $25 million in coverage should be rescinded.

Illinois Union Insurance Co. and Navigators Specialty Insurance Co. are attempting to invalidate a contract with Intuitive Surgical, Inc, according to a report by Bloomberg News. In response, the surgical robot manufacturer has countersued, accusing the two companies of operating in bad faith and breaching their contract.

At issue is coverage for da Vinci robotic surgery lawsuits filed against the company over injuries allegedly caused by problems with the popular surgical system, which features four arms that are remotely controlled by a surgeon through use of hand and foot controls while sitting at a console that provides a virtual reality representation of the patient’s internal organs.

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As the surgical robot has been added to operating rooms throughout the U.S., thousands of individuals have presented product liability claims against Intuitive Surgical. The manufacturer indicates that it faced about 3,000 claims at the height of the litigation, but only about 86 lawsuits pending in 22 different states remain.

According to the insurance companies, Intuitive only told them about two dozen claims and never made mention of the 734 other lawsuits pending at the time it sought coverage. The companies said that if they would have known about the claims, they would have considered Intuitive too big a risk and never covered it.

If their recission request is granted, it would leave Intuitive short about $25 million in coverage and covering itself for the rest of the year. However, Intuitive has sued to force the companies to cover it, saying they never asked about those lawsuits and that they knew about the lawsuits anyway.

da Vinci Robotic Surgery Complications

The da Vinci Surgical System is a complex robot manufactured by Intuitive Surgical, which is used in a variety of different urologic, gynecologic and other laparoscopic surgical procedures to provide a minimally invasive surgery.

According to allegations raised in product liability lawsuits filed against Intuitive Surgical over the da Vinci robot, the manufacturer sold a dangerous and defective device, failed to adequately train surgeons and failed to provide adequate warnings for consumers about the risk of problems. The manufacturer has also faced a shareholder lawsuit by investors who say the company misrepresented the safety of the surgical robot.

In January 2013, a report by the investment research firm Citron Research highlighted a number of potential issues with the da Vinci robot and Intuitive Surgical’s response to those problems. Citron identified more than 4,600 adverse event reports submitted to federal health regulators involving the da Vinci robot, highlighting what the analysts described as a disturbing trend with the manufacturer making “clearly unfathomable” assertions that the complications had nothing to do with the da Vinci robot.


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