Mishandling of Shoulder Dystocia During Delivery of Child Leads to Verdict
Recently, a Prince George's County, Maryland jury returned a verdict of $20.9 million in a lawsuit brought by the parents of a minor child who suffered a left brachial plexus injury with nerve root disruption during his delivery that was complicated by shoulder dystocia. The term "shoulder dystocia" describes a circumstance in which, after the delivery of the baby's head, the front shoulder of the infant will not pass below the mother's pubic symphysis and/or requires significant manipulation to get it to pass below the pubic symphysis. Shoulder dystocia is considered an obstetrical emergency because fetal death can occur if the baby is not delivered timely due to the umbilical cord getting compressed while in the birth canal or wrapping around the baby's neck and suffocating him/her. Shoulder dystocias typically occur in roughly 1% of all pregnancies. Certain well known risk factors include maternal diabetes, fetal macrosomia (large babies) and maternal obesity. Recurrence rates in subsequent pregnancies are actually relatively high as well according to recent studies discussing this phenomenon.
In the Maryland case, the child's mother had been admitted to the hospital for the child's delivery. Upon seeing signs that the baby may be in trouble, the mother's obstetrician instructed the mother to begin pushing. When the baby was unable to be delivered in an acceptable amount of time, the obstetrician instructed a nurse and the child's father to perform a maneuver to help assist him in the delivery. Thereafter, the obstetrician delivered the child's head by utilizing a downward, jerking motion. As a result of the sudden jerking motion while the baby's head was stuck behind the mother's pubic bone, the baby suffered a left brachial plexus injury with nerve root disruption at C5-7. The brachial plexus is a bundle of nerves that supply the sensory and motor components of the shoulder, arms and hands. Injuries commonly occur when these nerves are stretched or torn, with the latter resulting in total dysfunction. The child's arm is now essentially useless and he struggles with basic needs and tasks of daily living such as getting dressed, feeding himself, going to the bathroom, etc.. The parents sued the obstetrician for pulling their baby's head toward the floor during delivery and failing to ensure that the dystocia had been relieved by the earlier maneuver.
At STSW, our lawyers routinely handle shoulder dystocia cases as part of our medical negligence / medical malpractice practice. These cases are tragic as the result is often catastrophic for the child and he/she will require a lifetime of support and assistance in doing the most basic of daily activities. These cases also require attorneys to retain a number of specialized medical experts to support the case and therefore parents should choose their attorneys carefully. Our lawyers handle these matters in the Baltimore and Washington D.C. areas and have recovered millions of dollars for injured children. Call our team for a free consultation at (410) 385-2225 if your child has suffered a brachial plexus or nerve root injury during birth.