Intuitive faces investor lawsuit as da Vinci claims await

Intuitive Surgical is facing a shareholder lawsuit claiming it misled investors about da Vinci.--Courtesy of Intuitive Surgical

Intuitive Surgical ($ISRG) may have won its first liability lawsuit over the da Vinci surgical system, but the company now has to contend with ire from shareholders who claim it made misleading statements to inflate its stock price.

In a class-action suit filed in California, shareholders claim Intuitive knowingly withheld concerns about da Vinci's safety and put out false statements, all while reporting quarter after quarter of record financial results. The misinformation helped Intuitive's shares soar as high as $595, the lawsuit claims, and Intuitive's stock price has dropped about 12% since safety concerns over da Vinci came to light in February.

Intuitive Communications Vice President Angela Wonson said in a statement that the company is aware of the suit and believes it is without merit. "Intuitive will present a vigorous defense," she said.

As shareholders band together in frustration, Intuitive is still on the line for at least 25 lawsuits from patients claiming serious injury as a result of da Vinci procedures. Last month, a Washington jury found Intuitive not liable in its first da Vinci suit, clearing the company of allegations that it improperly trained a surgeon and saving Intuitive $8.5 million in damages.

The verdict was welcome news to Intuitive, and its stock has risen 6.7% since. But, with more than 300,000 da Vinci-assisted procedures performed in the U.S. last year alone, the company could be staring down far more than 25 lawsuits in the end.

And beyond the mounting litigation, Intuitive still faces scrutiny and doubt from physicians and regulators. The FDA is investigating whether da Vinci provides enough of a benefit to excuse its high rate of adverse events, and, in March, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists slammed Intuitive's robotic system, claiming it does little more than add to the cost of procedures.

- read the statement

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include a comment from Intuitive Surgical.

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