Legal: Failure to perform cesarean blamed for Erb's palsy

September 1, 2009

Shoulder dystocia occurred during delivery of a large baby and doctor was sued for not performing C/S.

In 2000, a Georgia woman delivered a 9 lb, 7 oz child 3 weeks early. A shoulder dystocia occurred during delivery and the obstetrician freed the shoulder, but the child suffered brachial plexus injury and was diagnosed with Erb's palsy.

In the lawsuit that followed, the patient claimed that a cesarean delivery should have been performed due to the child's size and the patient's prior history of a difficult birth. She also claimed that the physicians denied her request for a C/S, and she argued that the ultrasound showed the fetus was significantly larger than her first child and that her fundal height measurements indicated a larger than expected size for gestational age.

The physicians argued that the patient did not request a C/S, there was no medical reason to perform one, that fundal height was not a definite indication of the fetus' size because of the mother's obesity, and that shoulder dystocia and Erb's palsy were known complications of a vaginal birth. A defense verdict was returned.