The Popovich Case
The mother plaintiff was pregnant with her third child and went to see a defendant doctor for prenatal care. Towards the end of her pregnancy, believing that she was in labor, she called the doctor’s office and was told to report to the hospital. She was in labor and the obstetrician monitored her progress by phone. When it came time for delivery, he came to the hospital and, covering for another physician, decided to attempt labor. Since he was covering for another physician, he did not know anything about the prenatal history or the potential size of the baby.
It was determined that the child was prenatally thought to be a large baby; however, a regular vaginal delivery was attempted and a c-section was not offered.
When the baby was delivered, one shoulder was delivered, but the other shoulder got stuck in utero behind the mother’s pubic bone, which is termed a “shoulder dystocia”. The doctor began to try to free the shoulder, but a nurse from the hospital inappropriately pressed on the mother’s belly, using “fundal pressure” to try to free the shoulder.
Applying fundal pressure at this juncture in labor is medically inappropriate because it stretches the nerves in the shoulder, causing the nerves to stretch and break.
The shoulder was finally freed and the baby was delivered; however, he suffers from Erb’s palsy, otherwise known as a stretching of the nerves in the shoulders. This has caused a permanent condition where he has lost muscle tone and usage in his right arm.
The defendants’ experts opined that this was an emergency that could not be anticipated; however, the plaintiffs’ experts opined that a proper prenatal evaluation would have revealed such a condition and, if properly monitored, could have been properly anticipated.
A substantial settlement was achieved prior to trial in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.