Medical Verdicts

Erb’s palsy, neurologic problems follow ‘traumatic delivery’


Kings County (NY) Supreme Court

Following 3 days of irregular labor pains, a woman at 42 weeks’ gestation underwent labor induction. Thirteen hours after initiating the induction, the doctor recorded that the patient was fully dilated.

The physician noted shoulder dystocia after the mother had been pushing for 3 hours. After numerous attempts to extricate the shoulder proved unsuccessful, various staff members applied suprapubic pressure while the physician attempted to deliver the infant.

Upon delivery, the child was limp and flaccid; exhibited no respiration or reflexes; had an abnormal heart rate; and suffered a fractured right humerus, swelling, bruising, and abrasions on his face and head. The medical note indicated “a prolonged labor and a traumatic delivery.” The child now suffers from left Erb’s palsy, as well as cognitive, language, and attention problems.

The plaintiffs alleged the doctor should have opted for a cesarean delivery, and contended that he administered too much oxytocin during induction and used excessive force at delivery. In addition, they argued that the hospital attempted to cover up the events of the delivery, noting that the final 4 hours of fetal heart rate tracings and the last 90 minutes of labor progress notes were missing from the hospital chart.

The defendants maintained that a trial of labor was appropriate, and that the brachial plexus injury stemmed from the dystocia, not excessive force. They also argued the child did not suffer brain damage at the time of delivery.

  • The jury awarded the plaintiffs $2.5 million against the physician. The hospital was found not liable.
The cases presented here were compiled by Lewis L. Laska, editor of Medical Malpractice Verdicts, Settlements & Experts ( While there are instances when the available information is incomplete, these cases represent the types of clinical situations that typically result in litigation.

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