Intuitive Surgical, Inc., the manufacturers of the da Vinci surgical robot, which has been the subject of several product liability lawsuits filed by individuals who have experienced complications following robotic surgery, are opposing an attempt to consolidate all federal claims as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation.
The da Vinci Surgical System is a complex robot, which features four remote controlled arms and a camera, allowing surgeons to operate through a small incision with a joystick-like control.
There are currently at least four da Vinci robot surgery lawsuits pending in U.S. District Courts throughout the country, alleging that problems with the machine caused patients to suffer burns, tears and other internal injuries. The complaints allege that the surgical robots were sold without ensuring that surgeons were properly trained and without providing adequate warnings for consumers about the risk of serious and potentially life-threatening problems that may occur during surgery.
Last month, a motion was filed with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) by one of the plaintiffs who brought a case, asking that all lawsuits over da Vinci robotic surgery filed in the federal court system be consolidated before one judge for pretrial proceedings to reduce duplicative discovery, eliminate potentially contradictory rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the parties, the witnesses and the courts.
The request suggested that the da Vinci surgery litigation be centralized before U.S. District Judge Carlton Wayne Reeves, in the Southern District of Mississippi, where at least one of the cases is currently pending.
In a response (PDF) filed on May 31, Intuitive Surgical states that they oppose the establishment of an MDL for the da Vinci robot lawsuits, suggesting that there is no indication that the creation of an MDL would be convenient for anyone involved and that informal coordination should be sufficient.
“[T]his Panel has admonished that where, like here, only a small number of cases are sought to be coordinated through an MDL proceeding, efficiencies and conveniences can appropriately be achieved through informal coordination between the courts and counsel without the necessity of transferring the actions and establishing the apparatus of a single, centralized MDL proceeding,” the company wrote in their response. “That view is especially pertinent here, where Intuitive is currently the only defendant in the four actions, plaintiffs’ attorneys’ firms overlap in two of the four actions, and three of the four actions are presently pending in district courts that are geographically close to each other in the Southeastern United States.”
It is likely that the U.S. JPML will schedule oral arguments on the motion at their next scheduled hearing, which is currently set to be held in Cleveland on July 26.
At that time, the Panel will determine whether the Intuitive Surgical lawsuits should be centralized as part of an MDL, and will select the most appropriate transfer court if an MDL is formed.
Intuitive Surgical has suggested that if the Panel decides that an MDL is presently warranted despite the limited number of lawsuits, the litigation should be centralized in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, which is where the company is headquartered.