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11-Year Old Girl Receives Erb’s Palsy Settlement

US Supreme CourtAn 11-year old girl who suffered an injury during childbirth has received an Erb’s Palsy settlement of 250,000 Irish pounds, roughly the equivalent of $360,000. The minor child and her mother brought suit against the National Maternity Hospital in Ireland over their role in the child’s birth injury that took place in January of 2004. Though the defense in the case denied that they were responsible for the injury, they agreed to pay the settlement if it was without an admission of liability.

The plaintiffs had argued that member’s of the hospital’s medical staff used traction during labor and delivery after shoulder dystocia occurred, and that the traction resulted in a birth injury that left the girl with Erb’s Palsy. The condition has impeded movement in her left arm, causing difficulty with writing and other activities, and has required surgery in the past.

Erb’s Palsy settlement awarded for brachial plexus injury

Erb’s Palsy is the most common type of brachial plexus injury, an injury that entails damage to the nerves running from the spinal cord at the neck to the tips of the fingers. In Erb’s Palsy, the injury is confined to the upper part of the nerve bundle, which can affect movement in the shoulder, upper arm, upper part of the chest, thumb, and fingers.

While some examples of such an injury may be temporary, in other cases the nerves in question are not able to heal completely, or at all, and the child must contend with a lifetime of paralysis, compromised movement, and/or marred physical appearance (when one arm is underdeveloped, deformed, or hangs lifelessly at one side of the body).

Surgery, as in the case above, can be performed when it is apparent that the nerves are not healing themselves after the initial injury. Surgery can sometimes heal or mitigate the injury but is not always effective or completely successful. Physical or occupational therapy may be necessary to increase functioning and coping mechanisms, with or without surgical treatment.

Financial compensation for birth injuries

The birth injury settlement granted in the case against the National Maternity Hospital will likely be allocated for various kinds of therapies and also serves as financial compensation for pain and suffering, diminished earning potential, and other losses that the girl has and will suffer as the result of this injury.

Although brachial plexus injuries may be caused by other complications, they usually take place during childbirth as the result of poorly handled instances of shoulder dystocia. In shoulder dystocia cases, the infant’s shoulder is stuck inside the mother’s pelvic bone during delivery.

There are various approved ways of handling this situation; however, force or traction used to pull the baby out can result in a brachial plexus nerve injury that can lead to a permanent condition, such as Erb’s Palsy. When a medical practitioner falls below the standard of care in this respect, and causes long-term damage, they may be considered liable for the injury.

  1. Independent.IE, Girl (11) Who Allegedly Suffered Shoulder Injury at Birth Settles Legal Action for 250,000

  2. National Library of Medicine, MedLine Plus, “Brachial plexus injury in newborns”

  3. United Brachial Plexus Network, Inc., “What is a Brachial Plexus Injury?”