During product development, it’s not unusual to discover certain failure points in a surgical robot’s design. For example, certain components, like nuts or bolts or screws, may become brittle when exposed to various substances or gasses commonly found in operating rooms. Similarly, prolonged use may cause cables and wires to become overstressed. Such component degradation may result in unwanted changes in the robot’s movement patterns or even complete structural failure. Issues like these, if not immediately addressed during product development, can become low-hanging fruit for plaintiffs’ lawyers.
Continue Reading Defeat Design Defect Claims Before They’re Filed

Recently, an artificial intelligence-guided robot successfully performed a laparoscopic surgery to connect two ends of an intestine in four pigs, without any human intervention. And according to the researchers involved, the robot surgeon produced “significantly better” results than humans. Though such an accomplishment is astonishing and signals the inevitable rise of fully autonomous medical robots, it is important to remember that the results generated by artificial intelligence are only as good as the information used to train it.
Continue Reading The Risk of Clinical Data Collection Biases In Fully Autonomous Medical Robots

Over the last decade, robotics have revolutionized healthcare. Surgical robots are rapidly making their way into many of our nation’s operating rooms, and are being used in a wide variety of surgeries ranging from gynecological to ocular procedures.  Their popularity stems not only from their relative ease of use, but also from their potential for improved patient outcomes and decreased recovery time.

As with any device or product, however, surgical robots and the companies that make them have not been immune from product liability lawsuits. 
Continue Reading Emerging Trends in Surgical Robotics Product Liability Litigation

Recently, my colleague Amy Foust made some really good points about a subject that is rarely discussed.  Over the years, a number of patients have claimed that they were injured by surgical robots defective by design or manufacture.  A recent study from Johns Hopkins University may now allow some to argue that surgical robots are also injuring surgeons. 
Continue Reading Can Robot-Assisted Surgery Be a Pain?

In January, I posted regarding the impact of the Florida Supreme Court’s decision in Aubin v. Union Carbide Corp., 177 So. 3d 489 (Fla. 2015).  In that post I explained that even after Aubin, the consumer expectations test should not be applied in all design defect strict product liability cases because it is still up to the individual trial court judges to decide whether the consumer expectations and risk-utility tests should be given alternatively or together depending on the individual circumstances presented in each case. Some of the reasons for this conclusion included that the standard jury instructions remain unchanged; that numerous courts have ruled some products are too complex for the application of the consumer expectations test; that cases subject to the learned intermediary doctrine by definition involve a product too complex to permit the application of the consumer expectations test; and that the risk-utility test traces its roots to the Restatement (Second) of Torts, not the Restatement (Third) of Torts which was rejected in Aubin.
Continue Reading Aubin v. Union Carbide—A Year Later

In Florida, there are two tests that a jury may apply in determining whether a product is defectively designed under a strict liability theory: the “consumer expectation test” and the “risk-utility test.”  Plaintiffs usually prefer the consumer expectation test because it is generally easier for them to prove, while defendants prefer the “risk-utility test.”  Late last year, the Florida Supreme Court issued its opinion in Aubin v. Union Carbide Corp., 177 So.3d 489 (Fla. 2015).  Almost immediately, a number of commentators argued that Aubin spelled the end of the exclusive application of the risk-utility test in all Florida cases involving strict liability design defect claims.  But is that really true?
Continue Reading Following Aubin v. Union Carbide, Will Complex Medical Device Manufacturers Face an Uphill Battle in Defending Against Strict Liability Design Defect Claims in Florida?