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Doctor Negligence Cited in Erb’s Palsy Lawsuit

newborn incubatorA retired Illinois judge turned attorney has returned to the bench in Madison County, forcing him to withdraw from a malpractice case filed on behalf of his client on February 20. Ralph Mendelsohn had provided legal counsel for an Illinois woman and her minor child, who alleged that Dr. Saji Jacob and healthcare providers at Alton Memorial Hospital and Alton Women’s Health Center rendered negligent care leading to the child’s permanent injuries.

Their suit was originally brought in Madison County circuit court, but has since been moved to East St. Louis district court where Judge Nancy Rosenstengel will preside over the case.

Details of Erb’s palsy lawsuit

Before resigning from the case, Mendelsohn wrote that his client was admitted to the defendant hospital for induction of labor on Feb. 20, 2007. The plaintiff’s physician, Dr. Jacob then attempted to perform a vacuum-assisted delivery. Despite this assistive measure, Dr. Jacob was unable to deliver the baby’s posterior shoulder from the birth canal.

“The vacuum cup was then released and it was noted that the posterior shoulder has some weaknesses suggestive of Erb’s palsy,” wrote Mendelsohn in the lawsuit, adding that the doctor failed to perform a Cesarean section delivery in this difficult and prolonged labor.

The claim further noted that the child suffered brachial plexus injuries and a broken clavicle during the delivery, suggestive of birth injury malpractice.

The Erb’s Palsy lawsuit is demanding compensation for the following losses:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of income and earning capacity
  • Future medical care, surgery and therapy

After Mendelsohn resigned, a new attorney took the case who then removed Dr. Jacob and Alton Women’s Health Center health center as defendants since they are “deemed employees” of the United States, and therefore qualify for coverage under the scope of the Federal Tort Claims Act. On July 29, the United States of America was substituted as defendant in the case.

Causes and symptoms of brachial plexus injury

Erb’s Palsy is a type of brachial plexus nerve injury that affects movement and sensation in the arm. Trauma, such as pulling, stretching or tearing of the upper nerves that make up the brachial plexus network may occur during a breech or especially difficult labor, such as when shoulder dystocia is present.

When a doctor applies too much force to the neck and shoulder in attempting to dislodge the baby, nerve injury is a common result and may provide grounds for seeking legal recourse. Similarly, a failure to perform a C-section in emergency situations may also warrant pursuing a medical malpractice suit.

Signs and symptoms of Erb’s Palsy may include:

  • Loss of sensation in the arm
  • A limp arm
  • Partial or complete paralysis
  • Compromised sensory function in the upper arm
  • Reduced or complete loss of motor function in the upper arm
  • Impaired muscular development in the affected area

The long-term prognosis for Erb’s Palsy will largely depend on the severity of the nerve injury sustained. Mild cases usually resolve on their own or with physical therapy within six months. More than two-thirds of all cases will heal within one year as long as rehabilitation and therapy are consistently provided.

  1. Mayo Clinic, Brachial Plexus Injury

  2. Madison Record, Retired Madison County judge turned plaintiff attorney withdraws as counsel; Mendelsohn was pursuing med mal complaint before recall to bench,