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Birth injury damages of $3 million justified in medical malpractice case

Every parent looks hopefully toward the birth of a new baby, and must put great trust in the doctors and staff involved in the delivery. Unfortunately, in some cases, due to bad decisions or errors in the delivery, a baby suffers birth injuries during the delivery. When such injuries are caused by a doctor's malpractice, those involved should be held accountable.

The recent case of Skelly-Hand v. Lizardi, from the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, provides an example where such malpractice resulted in a multi-million dollar verdict against the doctor.

An injury during birth

The victim was injured during her birth when her shoulder became lodged against her mother's pubic bone during delivery. This resulted in an injury to the group of nerves running from her neck into her arm, and resulted in her being diagnosed with a condition called Erb's palsy.

The parents of the victim brought a medical malpractice lawsuit against the obstetrician-gynecologist who delivered the baby, in part based on the doctor's failure to deliver the baby via a cesarean section. The jury found in favor of the parents and the victim, and awarded a judgment that totaled more than $3 million.

The doctor appealed, arguing that the parents did not prove that the child's injury was caused by the doctor's failure to deliver the child by C-section, and that the jury's verdict should be set aside. In addition, the doctor contended that the damage awards of $1 million for the child's past pain and suffering and $1 million for her future pain and suffering was unreasonable.

Evidence of malpractice and pain and suffering

The New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, reviewed the decision from the lower court and disagreed with the contention that the parents had failed to show the failure to deliver the baby by C-section had proximately caused the injury.

The parents' medical expert had testified that any doctor should seek to predict and avoid such shoulder injuries by evaluating various risk factors, the most important of which is the baby's birth weight. The doctor had failed to account for an expected 15 percent margin of error in the birth weight estimate and, likewise, had ignored other related risk factors, such as the mother's short stature. The expert's opinion was that the doctor had deviated from the accepted standard of care by failing to deliver by C-section in these circumstances.

In addition, the damages for past and future pain and suffering were not unreasonable. The child's injury had a significant impact on her life and the treating surgeon described it as one of the more severe injuries he had treated. The girl, 16 years old at the time of the trial, had very limited arm and shoulder function and it was almost impossible for her to do any task requiring two hands. She had also underwent extensive and painful medical treatments-five surgeries and significant periods wearing braces or casts. Her appearance, social adjustment and self-confidence had all been affected by the injury and she had been unable to attend school at times.

Thus, the jury verdict in this medical malpractice action was affirmed, and the damages were not unreasonable.

Investigating a birth injury

If you believe your family has experienced a birth injury due to possible medical malpractice, you should immediately consult an experienced attorney. Seek an attorney who will investigate and examine every aspect of the birth injury and work to ensure those responsible are held accountable.

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