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Erb’s Palsy Lawsuit Alleges Medical Negligence

infant holding mother's fingerAn Arkansas couple filed an Erb’s palsy lawsuit in United States District Court in Maryland on April 17, 2015 against Anne Arundel Medical Center, Annapolis OB-GYN Associates, and their obstetrician, Richard G. Welch.

The birth injury lawsuit alleges that the defendants’ medical negligence in the face of a shoulder dystocia emergency caused the plaintiff infant severe pain, irreparable harm, and permanent physical, neurological, and cognitive damage, including Erb’s Palsy.

The defendants’ alleged negligence will also cause the plaintiff parents to be subjected to a lifetime of extraordinary medical expenses to care for their permanently disabled son.

Plaintiffs allege shoulder dystocia was poorly managed

The facts of the case are similar to those found in other Erb’s palsy claims. After eight hours of active labor, the infant was delivered at Anne Arundel Medical Center under the care of Dr. Richard Welch. Shoulder dystocia is a medical emergency which occurs when the infant’s shoulder becomes stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone during delivery. It is more prone to occur in larger babies who are unable to pass through the birth canal.

A physician may, in the face of such an emergency, sometimes use excessive or misdirected force to reposition the baby so that it doesn’t suffocate. However, if extreme care is not exercised in the effort to reposition the emerging baby, the nerves of the brachial plexus can be stretched, ruptured, torn, or completely separated from the spinal cord (avulsion).

Erb’s Palsy can present temporarily or permanently with a limp or atrophied arm, lack of muscle control in the affected arm, or complete paralysis. The condition may also lead to facial paralysis on the affected side, not being able to sit up without assistance, or the inability to crawl without the use of therapeutic devices.

Erb’s Palsy can resolve in 6 to 24 months, but the condition remains permanent in 10% of all cases.

Birth injury lawsuit claims medical negligence

The court papers read as follows: “In violation of the applicable standard of care, the Defendants failed to properly manage the labor and delivery, failed to recognize and/or appropriately respond to the obvious obstetrical emergency, and failed to safely and timely deliver the Plaintiff infant.”

The Plaintiffs state that the risks and dangers to their son should have been evident but were ignored. The plaintiff’s mother had a prior difficult delivery of an 8 lb 13 oz baby that necessitated the use of forceps. This should have been a red flag when making staffing decisions for the delivery (a NICU team had to be called in when the shoulder dystocia presented itself, and the baby was delivered with poor respiratory function).

The plaintiffs allege that the poor management decisions and failure to recognize risk factors “resulted in permanent and severe disability and impairment, including, but not limited to, Erb’s Palsy, severe and permanent physical, developmental, neurological, cognitive, and emotional injuries, and other damages.”

Testimony by expert witness aids Erb’s palsy case

An expert witness, Dr. Yvonne Gomez-Carrion, MD, gave testimony that Dr. Welch and his team “did not properly monitor fetal well-being, estimate fetal weight and station, recognize fetal monitor tracings indicative of fetal intolerance to labor, recognize the presence of shoulder dystocia, inform the mother of her delivery options, and implement appropriate and timely interventions to safely deliver and arrange for proper support personnel to be present at delivery to assist.”

  1. NY Daily News, Mom Says Botched Deliveries Paralyzed Son’s Arms

  2. National Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health, Who is To Blame and What Will Happen?