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IL Jury Awards $1M in Brachial Plexus Injury Lawsuit

ultrasound on pregnant womanLast month, an Illinois jury recently awarded $1 million to the plaintiffs in a brachial plexus injury lawsuit. The defendant, a Maryville doctor, was accused of failing to perform a Cesarean section to avoid injury. The lawsuit alleges that the doctor should have recognized that the baby was larger than usual and was therefore at risk of damage to her shoulder if subjected to a vaginal delivery.

Erbs Palsy lawsuit alleges doctor negligence

The baby, Beilei Rae, was born on March 1, 2011, with nerve root damage to her arm. Because of the damage, her arm was left weak and motionless. Bailei’s mother, Jamie Rae, filed a lawsuit on behalf of the child.

The lawsuit alleges that the doctor should have recognized that at 9 pounds, 2 ounces, Bailei should have been delivered by C-section. Because Rae’s labor was allowed to continue, Bailei’s arm became lodged in a dangerous position during delivery because it reduces oxygen to the brain. According to the suit, the doctor negligently applied downward force and excessive tilting of Bailei’s head, leading to permanent nerve root damage and brachial plexus injury.

The jury agreed with the allegations, awarding nearly $500,000 for past medical expenses, disfigurement, disability, pain and suffering, and other non-economic damages. It also awarded over $500,000 for future medical expenses.

About brachial plexus injuries

A prolonged labor can hurt both the mother and child. Once of the dangers to the baby is shoulder dystocia, which occurs when the baby’s head is delivered but the shoulder becomes stuck in the birth canal. There is a correlation between baby’s size and shoulder dystocia; it occurs in approximately 1% of births of average-weight babies but it occurs in nearly 10% of births of large babies.

Shoulder dystocia makes labor more complicated and must be monitored carefully. Because it can lead to a tilt that puts pressure on nerves running through the neck, delivery with shoulder dystocia can result in decreased oxygen and blood flow to the brain. It can also lead to slow and shallow breathing, and to brachial plexus injuries, which can cause paralysis.

Erb’s Palsy is a type of brachial plexus injury that occurs when a pressure or pulling near the newborn’s head causes damage to a bundle of nerves (the brachial plexus) near the shoulder. There are several types of brachial plexus injuries that affect the arm in different places and ways. With Erb’s Palsy, both the upper and lower arm suffer paralysis.

Shoulder dystocia birth injuries

The birth injury that Bailei Rae suffered, Erb’s Palsy, is not the only type of birth injury associated with shoulder dystocia. Shoulder dystocia can also lead to injuries such as a broken arm, a broken collarbone, and loss of oxygen, potentially leading to brain damage or newborn death.

The baby is not the only one susceptible to harm though. The mother undergoing a traumatic birth can experience heavy bleeding and tearing, as well as bruises to the bladder.

Shoulder dystocia requires quick action by medical staff. It may mean that a C-section delivery needs to be performed, especially when the baby is larger than average. It may also require the use of forceps or vacuum extraction to aid a vaginal delivery.