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Lawsuit Seeks Damages for Brachial Plexus Birth Injury

baby reaching for father's fingerA severe brachial plexus injury is the subject of a lawsuit recently filed in federal court in West Virginia. The mother plaintiff alleges that failure to properly address shoulder dystocia during the birth of her child led to the severe and permanent injury to the child’s right arm.

The plaintiff has filed her complaint against the United States of America, since the birth took place in a facility overseen by the federal government.

According to the plaintiff, hospital staff at Family Health Care Center in West Virginia failed to provide proper medical care to her and her unborn daughter on December 13, 2014. Specifically, the plaintiff states that staff was negligent in their maneuvers to deliver the baby after shoulder dystocia was noted. Because proper maneuvers were not administered during the delivery, the baby was born with a severe brachial plexus injury in the right arm, which affects the child’s ability to use her right arm and hand.

Shoulder dystocia – an obstetric emergency

Shoulder dystocia is a relatively rare complication that occurs in anywhere from 0.2-2.1 percent of all vaginal deliveries. During birth, the baby’s shoulder becomes caught behind the mother’s pubic bone, preventing the baby from moving through the birth canal. Without careful maneuvering to loosen the shoulder and deliver the child, severe injuries can occur to the collection of nerves around the shoulder known as the brachial plexus.

Shoulder dystocia can usually be detected during birth by what has become known as the “turtle” sign. The baby’s head will appear and then retract back into the birth canal, indicating the shoulder is stuck. At that point, immediate action needs to be taken by medical staff to carefully dislodge the shoulder before the delivery can be safely completed.

About brachial plexus injuries

When shoulder dystocia is not properly addressed, the baby is at increased risk for a birth injury such as damage to the brachial plexus. This injury affects the nerves in the shoulder area, which may range from simply stretching the nerves to actually tearing them. Many cases of brachial plexus injuries resolve on their own within 6-12 months after the child’s birth. However, severe injuries, where the nerves are actually severed, can result in the need for surgical intervention and the possibility of permanent weakness or paralysis in the affected arm.

This particular claim was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia on December 9, 2015. Because the incident took place in a facility overseen by the federal government, the plaintiff has filed her complaint in accordance with the Federal Tort Claims Act. The FTCA specifically applies to federal medical centers and requires plaintiffs to notify all parties of their intentions prior to filing their lawsuit.

In her complaint, the plaintiff claims that her child’s brachial plexus injury is indeed severe, permanent and irreversible in nature. As a result, she is asking the court for compensatory damages for past and future medical expenses, physical and mental pain and suffering, loss of earning capacity and loss of enjoyment of life. The birth injury lawsuit is also seeking compensation for the embarrassment, humiliation and inconvenience her child has suffered in the past and will continue to suffer into the unforeseeable future.