How Medical Malpractice Applies To Brachial Plexus Injuries, Sometimes Known As Erbs And Global Palsy

The second type of major case that we see is brachial plexus injuries.

A brachial plexus injury is where the nerves on one side of the neck or the other are torn out from the neck during the birth process. The results can be paralysis of the baby’s arm, neck, shoulder or back.

Usually it’s the result of a shoulder dystocia, where one shoulder gets stuck behind the pubic bone and the baby’s head is delivered but the rest of the body doesn’t quickly follow the head. The baby stops. And, in an effort to deliver the baby the physician tries to use the head to rotate the baby’s body to a better angle to help deliver the shoulders. Using the soft neck and soft muscles and nerves to rotate a baby’s body causes serious damage. There are a number of other procedures that should be done rather than attempting to use the baby’s head as a lever.

When the baby is born with a severe paralysis in one arm, that damage will never heal perfectly. Although doctors go in and attempt to join other nerves to the damaged nerves and try to restore some function, the function is never normal and the arm never develops normally. The person will have a badly withered arm for the rest of their lives. The arm is just one problem; other areas can be seriously affected like the back, or side of the chest, or the shoulder. When we see a baby who comes to us with paralysis on one arm, we go back to the clinical records to see the description of the method used to deliver the baby. In the United States, studies have shown that brachial plexus injuries are solely a result of medical negligence and these statistics are being used in medical malpractice cases for children with this injury.

One reason for this problem is that, across North America, babies are gradually getting bigger. Early testing to establish baby size have proven to be bad indicators so it’s very difficult to predict when a baby is going to get stuck in the birth canal or when the shoulder is going to get stuck. We do know that there are various things they should do, and certain things that they definitely should not do, to try and dislodge the shoulder. Better to break the collar bone than tear the nerves out of the shoulder. One will heal and the other will cause damage for life.


If you, or someone you care about, is dealing with Personal injury law issues in the Toronto, Ontario Region, contact Strype Barristers LLP.

This article is taken from a September 7, 2007 interview with Jeff Strype LL.B., Personal Injury Lawyer with Strype Barristers LLP in Toronto , a Personal Injury Law Firm.

Note that laws vary from province to province. Please consult with a lawyer in your own area to be sure of the laws and specific issues in your own jurisdiction.