By Paul Dansker Esq. and Jason Molesso Esq.
Erb’s palsy is a neurologic condition resulting from injury to the brachial plexus where the motor nerves for the arm originate. It has long been known that “…Obstetric palsy of the upper limb is caused by a traction injury to the brachial plexus during birth…” The traction that causes Erb’s Palsy comes from the delivering doctor pulling on the baby’s head during the delivery. “Shoulder Dystocia” is a condition encountered in some deliveries where the baby’s shoulder becomes stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone. Shoulder Dystocia is an emergency because compression on the umbilical cord can stop the flow of blood to the baby. Even so, there are techniques that any delivering doctor should know to allow the baby’s shoulder to pass. These techniques absolutely DO NOT include traction on the baby’s head. A doctor can easily apply too much traction on a baby’s head that the nerves of the brachial plexus are stretched, partly torn, or completely sheared apart. It is clear Medical Malpractice for a doctor to cause an Erb’s Palsy.
Some cases of Erb’s Palsy are temporary and the child recovers full use of the affected arm through Physical Therapy. However, in other cases, Erb’s Palsy leads to permanent loss of function in the affected arm and affecting a child’s ability to engage in activities that require use of both arms, like sports and many kinds of employment. Even cases of relatively mild Erb’s Palsy can have a significant impact on a child’s ability to function and thrive. The nerve damage and loss of function often causes the affected arm to be shorter and contracted affecting not only the function of the arm, but the appearance of the arm. The disability and deformity caused by Erb’s Palsy can affect a child’s emotional well-being as well as their physical health.
Erb’s Palsy is a preventable injury that can often cause permanent disability and deformity.
Proper medical care to prevent Erb’s Palsy includes: 1) Accurate estimation of the baby’s size and weight; as bigger babies are at greater risk for Shoulder Dystocia; 2) Evaluation of the mother’s pelvis to safely deliver the baby; 3) The use of proper delivery techniques when Shoulder Dystocia is encountered, such as bringing the mother’s knees to her chest to rotate her pelvis and/or pressing down on the mother’s pelvic area to move the baby’s shoulder’s down; 4) Not pulling on the baby’s head to move the shoulder down; and 5) The ability to perform a Cesarean Section delivery if the baby cannot be safely delivered naturally.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) is a national organization of Obstetricians; and it is the Obstetricians that most often cause Erb’s Palsy. In recent years, ACOG has attempted to explain cases of Erb’s Palsy caused by other means than the Medical Malpractice of its members. The most common alternative explanations put forth by ACOG are that the natural “Forces of Labor” and/or Positioning of the baby in the uterus can damage a
baby’s brachial plexus. These alternative theories are not accepted by all in the medical community; and even some courts have held that these alternative theories are “Junk Science.”
A child with a permanent Erb’s Palsy, who is otherwise healthy and not born with other deformities or conditions, is the victim of Medical Malpractice and deserves their day in court represented by a birth injury attorney with experience in Medical Malpractice cases involving Erb’s Palsy. An Erb’s Palsey Lawsuit demands a team of experienced legal professionals – let us help you.
If you or someone close to you has suffered due to medical negligence, our New York medical error law firm is here to help. Contact us today online or by telephone at 212-732-2929 to speak with an experienced NYC Erb’s Palsey Lawyer
 Boome, RS & Kaye, JC, Obstetric Traction injuries of the Brachial Plexus; Bone & Joint Surg (Br.) 70-B(4)571-576 (1988).
 In 2004, ACOG stated on its website that “…they are dedicated to keeping this issue (Tort Reform) our highest priority until a solution is found.”