Product liability cases involving robots

New York residents are likely aware that manufacturers use robots to increase productivity and lower costs, but they may not know that autonomous machines are also used by police departments, farmers, hospitals and restaurants. Robots can save the lives of workers by performing dangerous tasks or operating in hazardous environments, but they can also cause severe injuries when things go wrong. Individuals injured by robots may file product liability lawsuits against the companies that built or programmed them, and many observers expect this kind of litigation to become more common in the years ahead.

Robots are used to perform thousands of surgical operations each year because they reduce risks by working deftly and quickly and allow medical specialists to treat more patients. However, they have also been known to seriously injure patients. Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Illinois and the Rush University Medical Center studied more than 1.7 million robotic procedures carried out over a 14-year period, and they found that robots had caused more than 1,000 injuries and in excess of 140 deaths.

In 2016, a California woman sued the makers of a leading surgical robot after she was left with severe internal injuries following a routine hysterectomy. The woman's lawsuit sought $30 million in damages, and the jury involved was in its third day of deliberations when it was announced that the parties involved had entered into a confidential settlement agreement.

Manufacturers are often motivated to settle product liability cases quickly and discretely, and this may be particularly true when emerging technology is involved. Experienced personal injury attorneys could point out the risks of protracted litigation to the defendants in product liability cases, and they may agree to ask their clients to enter into non-disclosure agreements in return for generous settlement offers.

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