A Cook County, Illinois jury on July 6, 2006 awarded a verdict in the amount of $1,030,767.47 to a nine-year-old girl who suffered permanent injury to the brachial plexus nerves in her right shoulder in a medical malpractice case. The trial was presided over by the Honorable Patricia Banks and the verdict rendered after 7 hours of deliberations over the course of two days. Once it was established that the baby’s right shoulder had become stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone during her delivery in April 1997, a condition called shoulder dystocia, the safest and simplest procedure was to place the mother into the McRoberts maneuver (which requires two assistants to raise the mother’s knees to her chest) and for a nurse to apply steady pressure to the area above the mother’s pubic bone (suprapubic pressure) while the obstetrician applies gentle downward pressure to the baby’s head. The jury found that during the birth of the child, the defendant obstetrician failed to use appropriate maneuvers and applied excessive force in his attempt to free the child’s right shoulder from behind her mother’s pubic bone.
According to a discussion that Plaintiff’s attorney Jeffrey E. Martin, a partner with the Law Firm of Levin & Perconti, had with jurors afterwards, “The jury found that after the baby developed shoulder dystocia during the birth process, the obstetrician failed to properly use appropriate disimpaction maneuvers to free the baby’s right shoulder from behind the mother’s pubic bone. As a result of the doctor’s failure to employ the McRoberts maneuver and properly apply suprapubic pressure, the jury found that the doctor exerted excessive force upon the baby’s head, thereby permanently damaging the baby’s right brachial plexus.”
Before trial, the doctor had made no offer to settle. “I feel the verdict may have been lowered due to the child’s excellent result due in part to the selfless dedication and excellent care that the child’s mother provided for her daughter. The mother worked tirelessly with her daughter during at-home therapy both before and after surgery to restore as much function as possible so that she could have as normal a life as possible. She never gave up!” said Martin.
As a result of the nerve injury, the child developed a bone deformity from lack of normal growth of bones in her right shoulder (scapula and clavicle) which, according to her surgeon, places her at greater risk for developing osteoarthritis, tendonitis, and chronic pain. She is also unable to fully supinate her right hand (rotate her hand palm upward) and lacks full strength in her right upper extremity, which limits normal activities.
Pleased with the verdict, Martin added: “Today’s result is an example of how well the civil jury trial system works. Since the jurors took 7 hours to deliberate, it is clear that they took their obligation as jurors seriously, carefully considered the evidence presented and instructions given, and rendered a fair and just verdict.”