Despite da Vinci Robot Lawsuits, Manufacturer Shares Surge on Earnings

Despite a growing number of product liability lawsuits that are being filed over complications with their da Vinci surgical robot, the manufacturer, Intuitive Surgical, reported record profits this week, which sent shares soaring.

Late Tuesday, Intuitive Surgical reported a $143.5 million profit for the first quarter of 2012, causing share prices to go up as high as 9% at one point this week.

The earnings far surpassed the expected profit targets, and the mounting lawsuits over the company’s flagship product, the da Vinci Surgical System, seemed to have little impact on investor confidence.

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So far this month, at least two da Vinci robot lawsuits have been filed against Intuitive, and a number of product liability lawyers are reviewing additional claims for individuals who experienced serious and potentially life-threatening complications, such as burns and tears to internal organs and blood vessels.

The da Vinci robot is a complex machine that features four remote controlled arms and a camera, allowing surgeons to operate through a small incision with a joystick-like control.  The device is promoted as a breakthrough device, allowing for less invasive surgery and shorter recovery times. However, lawsuits allege that it contains dangerous defects, which may increase the risk of complications. Complaints also allege that the manufacturer sold the machine without providing sufficient training and instructions for surgeons.

Based largely on sales of the da Vinci robot, which can cost up to $2 million and requires tens of thousands in maintenance costs each year, Intuitive Surgical generated in $495.2 million in total sales last quarter, a nearly 28% increase from the year before.

Some doctors and hospitals have complained that the high sales and profits have come at a cost. Hospitals are being pressured to use the da Vinci robot for surgical procedures even when surgeons are not fully trained in its use or else face losing patients to hospitals that do have the device.

Earlier this month, a da Vinci Surgical Robot wrongful death lawsuit was filed by the family of a woman who died after she suffered a burn of the right external iliac artery, which caused it to pump blood directly into her body cavity. Another da Vinci lawsuit was filed last week by a woman who suffered significant damage to her left ureter and bladder during a da Vinci robotic hysterectomy.

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