May 16, 2021

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (“Federal Appellate Court”) concluded in its opinion dated April 22, 2021 in a case against Intuitve Surgical, Inc., the manufacturer of the surgical tools used during a robotically-assisted hysterectomy performed on the plaintiff during which the plaintiff suffered a thermal injury to her left ureter: “the district court abused its discretion in excluding the testimony of [plaintiff’s expert] Dr. Hall based on his qualifications.”

The Underlying Facts

Tamanchia Moore underwent a robotically-assisted laparoscopic hysterectomy procedure. Following that procedure, Moore began to suffer from severe abdominal pain and an inability to urinate. In her effort to discover the source of her pain, Moore learned that her left ureter was burned during the hysterectomy procedure. Moore further discovered that the doctor who performed the laparoscopic hysterectomy used tools during the procedure produced by Intuitive Surgical, Inc., and that the tool at issue—a pair of miniature electrified scissors—was susceptible to forming microcracks along the shaft, which could leak electrical current during operations and burn the surrounding flesh. This same tool was subsequently recalled in the months following her surgery. Based on this information, Moore sued Intuitive for her injuries, seeking money damages to compensate her for the injuries she had suffered.

The plaintiff retained as her expert Dr. Michael Hall, a board-certified OB/GYN who practices gynecological surgery in Englewood, Colorado and teaches Obstetrics and Gynecology as an Assistant Professor at the University of Colorado’s medical school, and had performed the same procedure with different tools over four thousand times over his more than forty-year career.

Federal Appellate Court Opinion

The Federal Appellate Court held: “the district court’s finding that Dr. Hall was not qualified to testify as to the cause of Moore’s injury was manifestly erroneous. The district court applied the wrong legal standard by conflating the reliability criterion with the qualifications criterion. The district court further imposed an evidentiary burden that was too high by requiring that Dr. Hall be a user of the defendant’s product in order to be qualified to testify as an expert. And the district court improperly based its evidentiary determinations on the weight and persuasiveness of the evidence. Because Rule 702 does not impose any such requirements, we conclude that Dr. Hall was qualified to testify regarding the standard of care in hysterectomy procedures and the cause of Moore’s injuries. We therefore conclude that the district court abused its discretion in excluding Dr. Hall’s testimony on the basis of his qualifications.”

Source Moore v. Intuitive Surgical, Inc., No. 19-10869.

If you or a loved one have suffered complications or other injuries during or following robotic surgery, you should promptly consult with a local medical malpractice attorney who may agree to investigate your possible robotic surgery claim for you and file a robotic surgery claim on your behalf, if appropriate.

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