Erb's Palsy Lawsuit

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Erb's palsy lawsuits are filed by parents whose child suffers a brachial plexus injury due to medical malpractice during childbirth. An Erb's palsy lawsuit can help the family receive money to pay for long-term treatment of this birth injury and other care their child may need in the future.

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How Birth Injury Leads to Erb's Palsy

Women trust their medical teams to take appropriate precautions to avoid injury to their infants during labor and delivery procedures. When the OB/GYN doctor and other medical staff fail to use well-established birthing techniques, newborns can suffer significant injury to the neck and shoulder. One such injury is known as Erb-Duchenne palsy (often shortened to Erb's palsy).

Erb's palsy is a form of paralysis caused by damage to the brachial plexus, a set of nerves that controls upper arm muscles, including the deltoids, biceps, and brachialis. The most common delivery complication that can lead to such damage is shoulder dystocia, a condition in which the baby's shoulder becomes trapped by the mother's pelvic bone.

The risk of Erb's palsy is greater for some babies and women than others. Some of the most common risk factors that can lead to this type of birth injury include:

  • Larger-than-expected babies
  • Prolonged labor (usually second stage)
  • High maternal or fetal body mass
  • Gestational diabetes

When a child is at risk of injury due to one of these conditions, there are a number of generally accepted birthing techniques that a delivery team can use to avoid injuring the baby. Opting for a cesarean section delivery is the most reliable way to prevent brachial plexus injury, but that option presents its own set of risks. When medical providers fail to adhere to the accepted standard of care, they can be held liable for medical negligence or another form of malpractice.

What Types of Nerve Injuries Lead to Erb's Palsy?

The most common cause of injuries leading to Erb's palsy is force applied to the baby's head, neck or shoulder during delivery. When such force is applied, newborns can suffer from the following types of nerve injury:

  • Avulsion - when the nerve is completely severed from the nerve root at the spinal cord
  • Rupture - when the nerve is torn somewhere other than at the spinal cord
  • Traumatic Neuroma - when a healed nerve is unable to transmit signals due to scar tissue or other pressure
  • Neuropraxia - when the nerve is stretched or otherwise damaged but not torn

Some children can recover from these nerve injuries with appropriate treatment and physical therapy. However, Erb's palsy treatments can be expensive, and it can often take a long time to recover fully - if full recovery is even possible.  Some children may be permanently disabled by the nerve damage.

Common Symptoms of Erb's Palsy

  • Severe pain
  • Numbness
  • Weakness or unusable muscles
  • Partial or total paralysis of the arm
  • Contractions of the arm (similar to cerebral palsy)
  • Muscle atrophy
  • No feeling or sensation in the affected arm or hand

Did a Birth Injury Cause Erb's Palsy?

While cases of Erb's palsy can arise from a number of potential injuries, the majority stem from birth trauma. The injury commonly occurs due to factors completely outside of anyone's control, but occasionally it does not. Medical teams may fail to fully appreciate the baby's size and anticipate how it will cause complications during delivery. They may also fail to respond in a timely and effective way to labor complications.

How Can an Erb's Palsy Lawyer Help?

If you suspect that your child's injuries were the result of a failure within the labor and delivery team, your child may be legally entitled to compensation. If you have a viable case, you can file a birth injury lawsuit against the responsible party and recover money through a settlement or verdict. That money will help offset the cost of future medical interventions, long-term care, loss of function, pain and suffering.

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Erb's Palsy Settlements and Verdicts

Statistically, 1 - 2 babies in every 1,000 will have a brachial plexus nerve injury leading to Erb's palsy or Klumpke's palsy (another birth injury with similar causes). As a result, many brachial plexus palsy lawsuits are filed each year, some of which result in settlements or favorable verdicts for the plaintiff. Here are a few notable stories.

Alex Sims - Las Vegas, Nevada

After being induced for labor, Sims overheard the on-call doctor, Dr. Frank DeLee, talking about attending happy hour (her regular doctor was out of town). According to video of the birth, conversation with the nurses in the room confirmed that the doctor had just come from a bar, where he was drinking tequila and possibly other alcoholic beverages. In addition, Dr. DeLee was wearing Bermuda shorts and no shoes. During the birth, Sims' son Jason suffered a brachial plexus injury, causing permanent Erb's palsy. Sadly, this was not the first time Dr. DeLee had caused problems, as Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners records showed he had paid more than $2.7 million in total to at least six other families due to similar birth injuries. As of early 2019, no news of the case's resolution has been made public.

Libbey Bryson - $12.9 Million Birth Injury Verdict

In 2013, Bryson won $12.9 million from a jury verdict in her case against Genesys Regional Medical Center over her daughter's brachial plexus injury. The injury, which led to Erb's palsy, required Bryson's infant daughter to undergo surgical treatment once at six months of age and again at three years. Surgeons event went so far as to perform a nerve transfer in hopes of restoring some function to the affected arm.

During labor, the child's shoulder became stuck on Bryson's pubic bone while exiting the birth canal. In her lawsuit, Bryson claimed the doctors used excessive force to free the child. According to court testimony, the medical providers should have ordered a cesarean section or used another, safer technique. The jury ultimately agreed with her, although the total amount of the award was later reduced to about $3 million. The Michigan Court of Appeals upheld roughly that amount in April 2018 after Genesys appealed the verdict.

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Erb's Palsy Lawsuit FAQs

Is My Family Eligible to File an Erb's Palsy Lawsuit?

The majority of Erb's palsy cases affecting young children are related to injuries sustained during childbirth. While circumstances vary from person to person, you may be able to file an Erb's palsy lawsuit on behalf of your child if you meet the following criteria:

  • Your child's paralysis stems from an injury caused during childbirth
  • The statute of limitations has not run out in your state - laws vary greatly from state to state, so you consult with someone who is familiar with the rules in your location

Note that you may be able to get compensation even if your child does not experience permanent nerve damage. Damages can be awarded for pain and suffering as well as medical costs like surgery, physical therapy, and prescriptions.

What Compensation Is Eligible for Erb's Palsy Lawsuits?

Cases of Erb's palsy are treated as medical malpractice, allowing patients to seek a number of different economic and noneconomic damages:

  • Medical expenses, including prescriptions, surgeries, and other medical care
  • Therapy costs, including physical, occupational, or psychological
  • Lost wages of the caregiver (parent or another guardian)
  • Pain and suffering, whether physical, mental, or emotional
  • Lower quality of life, such as an inability to enjoy certain activities

It is important to keep a hold of receipts, invoices, insurance statements of benefit, and other records of your child's medical history related to the Erb's palsy diagnosis. If you travel to see specialists, you should also keep records of your travel expenses, including transport, lodging, and food.

How Much Does an Erb's Palsy Attorney Cost?

Because parents and guardians are often already paying medical expenses related to their child's birth injury, these cases are often filed on a contingency basis. In other words, your family with only pay for legal services if you receive a settlement or jury award from a favorable verdict. This arrangement lets you pursue your lawsuit without having to spend much-needed money that can go towards your child's care and daily living expenses.

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