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Jury Awards $1 Million in Shoulder Dystocia Lawsuit

Courtroom JusticeA permanent injury to a newborn child led a jury in Jackson County, Oregon, to award $1 million in a shoulder dystocia lawsuit. The plaintiffs claim that negligence during labor led to the severe tearing of the baby’s brachial plexus nerves and permanent disability in her left hand. The jury found the obstetrician that handled the delivery liable for negligence.

According to the complaint, the mother plaintiff was admitted to Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center in Medford on September 12, 2008. Her labor progressed normally until the baby was diagnosed with shoulder dystocia. Shoulder dystocia is a birth complication in which the baby’s shoulder becomes stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone as it moves through the birth canal.

Excess traction leads to torn nerves

Although the shoulder dystocia was recognized during delivery, the plaintiffs claim that the obstetrician overseeing the delivery applied excessive traction to remove the baby from the birth canal. The excessive traction resulted in brachial plexus injury. Brachial plexus injuries vary in terms of severity, with the large majority of the injuries resolving on their own within a few months after the baby’s birth.

Despite the positive odds, severe injuries may not resolve on their own, resulting in deformities, muscle atrophy, impaired growth of the limb or limb weakness. In these situations, the child may require extensive surgical procedures, physical therapy and other medical treatment in an attempt to restore use and mobility to the arm and hand. In some cases, the injury may never fully resolve completely, leaving the victim of the birth injury disabled for life. The plaintiffs in this case argue that their daughter has undergone three surgeries in her short life, but it is unlikely she will ever have full use of her left hand.

Negligence led to permanent shoulder injury

Shoulder dystocia during delivery typically requires medical personnel overseeing the birth to apply special maneuvers that gently loosen the baby’s shoulder so the newborn can move through the birth canal without injury. According to the plaintiffs, those maneuvers were not properly applied. The defendants refuted the allegations in court, stating maternal forces, not negligence by hospital staff, led to the child’s injuries.

The jury in this case sided with the plaintiffs, determining the obstetrician in charge of the delivery applied undue force during childbirth. The jury awarded the minor plaintiff, now six years of age, $1,012,000 to compensate for her injuries, pain and suffering, medical bills and other non-economic damages. The award will remain in the court’s control until the child turns 18.

The attorney for the plaintiffs told the Mail Tribune, “[The injury] will have an impact on her life, but she’s a very intelligent young girl with a great attitude and great parents.”

  1. Mail Tribune, Court Awards $1 Million to Jackson County Six-Year-Old Injured at Birth,

  2. March of Dimes, Shoulder Dystocia,

  3. Medscape, Brachial Plexus Injury,