Virginia Lawyers Weekly//August 4, 2019
Virginia Lawyers Weekly//August 4, 2019//
The plaintiff alleged the defendant, an obstetrician and gynecologist, failed to recognize and manage a shoulder dystocia, which resulted in him suffering a permanent brachial plexus injury with avulsions of the nerve roots at the C5 and C6 levels. The plaintiff underwent two surgeries and received therapy for his injuries. At trial, the plaintiff asked the jury for $2 million.
In his lawsuit, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant breached the standard of care by, among other things, applying excessive traction to his head and neck during the delivery. The defendant denied the allegations and the case proceeded to trial.
In a pretrial ruling, the court excluded the testimony of Robert Allen, Ph.D., a biomedical engineer, on the grounds that only a medical doctor can render an opinion about the cause of a human injury or illness.
At trial, the plaintiff’s remaining two experts testified that the defendant negligently managed the delivery by pulling on the plaintiff’s head and neck causing a permanent brachial plexus injury. The experts testified that the only way a permanent brachial plexus injury like the one the plaintiff sustained can occur is if the delivering obstetrician applies excessive traction.
The defendant denied applying excessive traction to the plaintiff’s head and neck. She testified that she only applied gentle traction in line with the axis of the spine. The defendant’s experts testified that if the defendant only applied gentle traction in line with the axis of the spine, she met the standard of care and did not cause the plaintiff’s injury. The defendant’s experts further testified that if the defendant only applied gentle traction in line with the axis of the spine, the maternal expulsive forces of labor (maternal pushing and contractions)—not excessive traction—caused the plaintiff’s brachial plexus injury.
After a five-day trial and deliberation by the jury for approximately four and a half hours, the jury returned a verdict for the defendant and her practice.
Type of action: Medical Malpractice
Injuries alleged: Permanent brachial plexus injury including avulsions at the C5-C6 nerve root levels
Court: Prince William County Circuit Court
Name of judge or mediator: Judge James A. Willett
Date resolved: May 8, 2019
Verdict or settlement: Defense Verdict
Attorneys for defendant: Sean P. Byrne, Richmond; Heather E. Zaug, Fairfax
Plaintiff’s experts: Frank Bottiglieri, M.D., OB/GYN, Maryland; Daniel Adler, M.D., pediatric neurologist, New York; Robert Allen, Ph.D., biomedical engineer, New York
Insurance carrier: Curi, a Medical Mutual Company