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Judge Withdraws as Counsel in Erb’s Palsy Lawsuit

attorney speaking to juryA retired Madison County, Illinois judge recently resigned as plaintiff’s counsel in a federal Erb’s palsy lawsuit so that he could return to the bench. Judge Ralph Mendelsohn removed himself from private practice and resumed his place as associate judge of the Third Judicial Circuit of Illinois.

Judge Mendelsohn had filed the birth injury lawsuit on February 20, 2015, in the Madison County Circuit Court and named Alton Memorial Hospital, Alton Women’s Health Center, and Dr. Saji Jacob as defendants. The lawsuit was later removed to the federal court in East St. Louis.

Erb’s palsy lawsuit alleges medical malpractice

Mendelsohn filed the lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiff, who gave birth to a baby girl on February 20, 2007, at Alton Memorial Hospital, where she had been admitted for an induction of labor. After several unsuccessful maneuvers, the girl was delivered with injuries to her posterior shoulder. Dr. Jacob attempted to perform a vacuum assisted delivery and when that failed, attempted multiple manipulations. According to the complaint, when the vacuum cup was released, the baby’s posterior shoulder showed signs of weakness consistent with Erb’s palsy.

The plaintiff’s daughter was delivered with nerve injuries and a broken clavicle. The complaint alleges that both the hospital and the physician were negligent for failing to perform a Caesarean section. The plaintiffs request damages for pain and suffering, lost earning capacity, and the cost of future medical costs and therapy.

Brachial plexus birth injuries

Erb’s palsy is a brachial plexus injury that results when a network of nerves that runs around the shoulder – the brachial plexus – is injured during birth. There are several types of brachial plexus injuries but while most types affect only the upper arm, Erb’s palsy causes weakness and/or paralysis in both the upper and lower arm. Some children suffering from Erb’s palsy can recover full use of the arm with treatment and early and frequent physical therapy; in other cases, the condition is permanent.

Brachial plexus injuries are often tied to complications with shoulder dystocia during labor. This occurs where the newborn’s head is delivered through the birth canal but the shoulder gets stuck. At the wrong angle, the pressure placed on the neck damages the brachial plexus nerves.

Erb’s palsy may be preventable

Some parents file medical malpractice cases after such birth trauma if it is evident that mistakes were made during the delivery.

Certain known risk factors increase the chances of a brachial plexus injury:

  • Breach delivery position
  • A larger than average newborn, especially when the mother suffers from gestational diabetes
  • Difficulty delivering the shoulder after the head has already emerged

Doctors and other medical professionals can help prevent injury to the newborn by manipulating the baby’s position or, if necessary, performing an emergency Cesarean section. The standard of care for doctors and midwives calls for them to be on the lookout for factors that can contribute to shoulder dystocia. When risk factors are ignored and a child suffers as a result, the child and his or her family may be entitled to compensation for treatment and other compensation related to the injury.

  1. Madison Record, Retired Madison County judge turned plaintiff attorney withdraws as counsel; Mendelsohn was pursing med mal complaint before recall to bench,

  2. Medline Plus, Brachial plexus injury in newborns,