Virginia Lawyers Weekly reports today on a $1,000,000 settlement in a medical malpractice Erb’s palsy case. The interesting thing about this case is that the injuries occurred during the course of a cesarean section. The father of the child claimed he witnessed the obstetrician applying excessive force to the fetal head after the baby’s shoulder did not clear. Plaintiff’s expert testified the doctor failed to make the incision large enough to extract the baby’s head and then inappropriately applied traction while the head was still entrapped. Fortunately, the child was promptly diagnosed with a brachial plexus injury that was confined to the child’s neck (at C5/C6). After surgery, the child has a good prognosis for a functional arm and hand.
Shoulder dystocia cases are not rare but this is the first case I have seen or read about where the OB/GYN’s malpractice was the failure to make a large enough C-section incision. There are many claims that involve the failure to provide a c-section in the first place.
These injuries tend to occur with babies that are much larger than typical or, as is frequently the case, when the mother has diagnosed or undiagnosed gestational diabetes (or is just a diabetic). The big thing with this problem is seeing the problem before it manifests itself.
The injuries themselves usually resolve themselves without permanent injury. But, in a minority of cases, the injuries from a shoulder dystocia case can be permanent. The injuries range from brachial plexus injuries, to bleeding and even death.