Legal: Delivery management blamed for Erb's palsy

January 1, 2009

A woman delivered at a hospital and the delivery was complicated by shoulder dystocia.

In 2002, a New York woman delivered at a hospital and the delivery was complicated by shoulder dystocia. Maneuvers were used to relieve the dystocia and the delivery was completed. The child was diagnosed with Erb's palsy. In the subsequent lawsuit, it was alleged that excessive force and traction had been used during the resolution of the dystocia.

The obstetrician claimed that the baby's weight of 7 lb, 10 oz did not suggest that shoulder dystocia would be likely and that the pregnancy had not provided any other indications of likely dystocia. She denied the use of excessive force and contended that delivery occurred about 1 minute after the dystocia occurred. A defense verdict was returned.

Legal perspective

1. Clark SL, Belfort MA, Dildy GA, et al. Reducing obstetric litigation through alterations in practice patterns. Obstet Gynecol. 2008;112:1279-1283.

Department editor DAWN COLLINS, JD, is an attorney specializing in medical malpractice in Long Beach, CA. She welcomes feedback on this column via e-mail to dawncfree@gmail.com
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