2522 Case Study: Shoulder Dystocia Injury During Birth | Harry S. Cohen & Associates

Shoulder Dystocia Injury During Birth

Filed under Birth Injury, Shoulder Dystocia

The Stensen Case

In this case, we represented a minor, through her parents, for injuries that she sustained during her birthing process.

Mrs. Stensen was admitted to the Hospital for the obstetrical delivery of her daughter, the minor-plaintiff. At some point during the birthing process, the baby’s shoulder became lodged in the birth canal against the mother’s pelvic bone. This is a presentation known as “shoulder dystocia.”

It is basically undisputed among doctors, experts, and all medical textbooks addressing the issue, that the very worst thing that can be done by medical providers in the wake of a shoulder dystocia presentation is to apply pressure on the upper abdomen. This is commonly known as “fundal pressure.” Fundal pressure is contraindicated because it further lodges the baby’s shoulder underneath the mother’s pelvic bone. Therefore, when fundal pressure is applied to a shoulder dystocia presentation, it will likely lead to the baby experiencing a brachial plexus (bundle of nerves in the shoulder) injury. This injury is also known as “Erb’s Palsy.”

We brought suit against the Hospital (nursing staff) and the obstetrician.

When the obstetrical doctor dictated his operative note immediately following this delivery, he acknowledged several times that “significant fundal pressure” was applied in response to the shoulder dystocia presentation; and immediately after delivery, nurses noted the resulting arm injury.

Interestingly enough, in his deposition, the defendant doctor denied personally applying any fundal pressure and testified that any fundal pressure applied would have been administered by the attending nursing staff. Conversely, the nursing staff has testified that any fundal pressure would have been applied personally by the doctor.

We obtained experts that opined that whoever applied fundal pressure clearly deviated from the standard of care and caused the girl’s permanently disfigured and dysfunctional arm.

Since her birth, although the girl has undergone numerous therapies and several operations for her brachial plexus injury, her arm is permanently disfigured and dysfunctional.

7-days prior to trial, we settled with the defendant obstetrician for a substantial amount. As we customarily do when representing a minor, we worked with the family to establish a Special Needs Trust for the child. This Trust will be used to assist the child with her lifetime special health needs and to replace any lifetime wage loss caused by her injuries.

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