The Erb’s Palsy Litigation Wars

This post was written by Andrea Girones:

September 9, 2015. All medical malpractice cases are fought vigorously, but few cases draw the kind of fierce defence that obstetricians put up in cases involving birth trauma and a baby who suffers from Erb’s Palsy.

Erb’s Palsy is a nerve injury to a newborn baby believed to have one main cause: a doctor who pulls too hard and too fast on a baby’s head during birth while a shoulder is trapped. The injury is to the brachial plexus nerve group, located in the neck and shoulder region, and can cause a permanent paralysis of the baby’s arm leading to a lifetime of pain, disability, therapy and dysfunction.

All doctors are taught that in the case of shoulder dystocia, that is, when a baby’s shoulder is trapped behind the pubic bone, that they can never pull on the baby’s head. Alternative movements of a turning or rotational nature can be used to dislodge the shoulder. Attempts to yank the baby out in panic or in fear, before the shoulder is dislodged, will only tear the baby’s nerve endings, right out of the spinal cord, (known as nerve avulsions).

Despite warnings and extensive training, doctors simply do not experience shoulder dystocia enough to practice the manoeuvres and develop the confidence not to panic. Erb’s palsy occurs in an estimated 3 in 1000 babies, with over 25% of those injuries becoming permanent. While some healing can occur with a stretch injury to the brachial plexus nerves, torn or ruptured nerves will never heal. These injuries have one known cause: humans delivering the baby with excessive force.

Despite the recognition of excessive force as the primary cause of Erb’s Palsy, the Obstetrical community all over the world has conducted elaborate tests and far-fetched engineering research to attempt to identify other causes for Erb’s Palsy. In utero theories have been advanced, and mechanical models using springs and cadavers were developed to try and show how the “maternal forces of labour” could conceivably cause these injuries without human intervention.

Some obstetricians have devoted years of theirs lives analysing past literature and setting up websites to defend obstetricians in Erbs’ Palsy lawsuits. The American Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have just published a literature review which purports to summarize the state of the literature on this issues and insists to anyone who will listen that “other causes” of Erb’s Palsy exist.

There few cases in medical malpractice where the injury defines the cause, that is doctor (human) error. Doctors, like lawyers, accountants, bus drivers and pharmacists all have bad days and all have careless moments where mistakes are made. However the obstetrical community continues to hide behind these bad days at the expense of a disabled child.

Girones Lawyers has settled and tried several brachial plexus and Erb’s Palsy cases for disabled children and has an extensive library of medical literature to support their cases. We can tell you if your child has a case against the delivering doctor, and will charge no fees until the resolution of the case. We also work with referring lawyers and their clients.

Andrea Girones



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Recent paper:Birth Brachial Plexus Lawsuits

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