$4 Million in Compensation Awarded to Child in Brachial Plexus Birth Injury Lawsuit
COURT AND COUNTY
Supreme Court, Kings County
AGE AND OCCUPATION OF PLAINTIFF
Plaintiff was injured at birth during delivery and was four years of age when the case settled. Plaintiff’s mother was a nurse.
DESCRIPTION OF CASE
The plaintiff suffered from multiple birth injuries caused by improper techniques used by the obstetricians at his delivery.
At 37 weeks gestation, it was discovered that the plaintiff weighed about 9.6 pounds. Usually, it is required that babies weighing over 9.3 pounds at the time of delivery be delivered via C-section to reduce the risk of complication and injury during birth. Babies also typically gain about 1.4 ounces a day in the third trimester of pregnancy. This means that weeks before birth, the doctors should have known that a C-section was absolutely necessary, and that natural delivery would pose a huge risk. The mother also suffered from gestational diabetes toward the end of her pregnancy, which indicates birth complications. A C-section was originally planned, but the doctor, for unknown reasons, decided one was not necessary.
At the time of delivery, the plaintiff’s mother begged repeatedly for a C-section but was denied one because labor was progressing too slowly. As the plaintiff was emerging from the birth canal his shoulders, being too wide, got stuck under the pubic bone, a phenomenon known as shoulder dystocia. At this point, it was impossible for the baby to be delivered without some kind of assistance. In an attempt to dislodge the baby’s shoulder, the doctor performed the McRoberts Maneuver, in which the doctor applied super pubic pressure to manipulate the shoulder.
However, the doctor pushed down on the baby’s brachial plexus, a collection of nerves in the spinal cord that sends signals down the shoulder, arm and hand. This resulted in downward traction, which caused the head to come away from the shoulder and resulted in nerve damage to the neck. The pressure applied to the head also resulted in cephalohematoma, which is a collection of blood in between the baby’s scalp and skull. This occurred because the pressure caused too many blood vessels in the baby’s head to break. Cephalohematoma is also responsible for brain damage. This severely damaged the nerves in the plaintiff’s neck. The plaintiff weighed 11.1 pounds at birth.
INJURIES AND DAMAGES
The nerve damage in the brachial plexus was severe. The damage resulted in Erb’s palsy, which is paralysis of the upper arm muscles due to lesions of the brachial plexus. Soon after his birth, the plaintiff underwent surgery to remove nerves from his legs and graft them into both sides of the neck. The plaintiff also suffered from cognitive deficits due to fetal distress, which resulted in speech delays. After surgery, the plaintiff regained practical use of his arms.
The case settled for $4,000,000 just before the beginning of trial. The plaintiff was four years old.
This is the largest known settlement for a brachial plexus injury in the State of New York. This case was handled by Partners Jeffrey A. Block and S. Joseph Donahue.