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Claim Argues Delivery Room Negligence Led to Erb’s Palsy

baby's faceOn October 5, 2015, a Mississippi mother filed a lawsuit on behalf of her child who suffered nerve damage and other permanent injuries as an alleged result of the negligent handling of shoulder dystocia.

The complaint, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi, names the United States of America, PHC-Cleveland, Inc., and LifePoint Hospitals, Inc. as defendants. As redress for her child’s injuries, the plaintiff is seeking compensation for both the actual costs of the child’s treatment, as well as the non-economic impact of the experience, which includes mental anguish and emotional suffering.

Details of allegations

The plaintiff’s cause of action began on November 27, 2012 upon her admittance to Boliver Medical Center for the birth of her daughter. From there, plaintiff alleges, the hospital staff engaged in extensive acts of negligence, beginning with the broad allegation that the team failed to recognize and treat the mother’s imminent delivery complications.

More specifically, the birth injury lawsuit alleges that the hospital staff failed to implement routine testing procedures necessary to adequately asses the size and weight of the baby prior to birth. In many cases, labor and delivery practitioners will assess a laboring mother’s fundal height, or the height of the abdomen while lying in a horizontal position. As well, practitioners often utilize ultrasound technology to gather additional information about the baby’s measurements prior to birth – which may have helped avoid the resulting injuries in this particular case.

In addition to the hospital’s alleged failure to adequately assess the baby’s pre-birth measurements, the plaintiff contends that the staff improperly rendered fundal pressure (pressure on the abdomen and uterus) during the birthing process to prematurely advance the baby through the birth canal. From there, the plaintiff also contends that the obstetrician negligently “[pulled] on [the child’s] head during the birth in such a manner as to cause impingement of her right shoulder causing serious and permanent injury.”

Lastly, the plaintiff argues that the negligence of the hospital staff and obstetric team directly caused the child’s resulting Erb’s Palsy – a condition which causes impaired function in the affected shoulder and/or arm area. As a result of this, the plaintiff has missed work, lost wages, and has suffered emotional turmoil, grief and distress.

Erb’s Palsy secondary to shoulder dystocia

Shoulder dystocia, in which the baby’s anterior shoulder is unable to pass through the birth canal, is especially prevalent among larger babies or babies born to larger mothers. Through routine care and monitoring, babies with risk factors for a difficult birth can experience a safe entry into the world through the use of preventative birthing techniques and/or a Caesarian section. Too often, however, obstetricians and hospital staff prolong the birthing process, relying on vacuum extraction or similar methods to bring the baby through the birth canal – which  greatly increases the risk of damage to the baby’s head, neck, spine, or shoulders.

Also known as a brachial plexus injury, symptoms of Erb’s Palsy (which are often apparent immediately after birth) include lack of movement in the baby’s arms, arms bent at the elbow, or a decreased grip on the affected side.

  1., Brachial plexus injury,

  2., Shoulder dystocia,