Shoulder Dystocia Lawsuit Verdict of $56M Appealed by Hospital

A New York hospital is attempting to overturn a $56 million verdict in a birth injury lawsuit won by a family last year after their son’s shoulder became stuck on the mother’s pelvic bone during delivery. 

The shoulder dystocia lawsuit was filed by the Swanson family, alleging that Northern Westchester Hospital botched the delivery of their newborn child in October 2003, leading to permanent and debilitating injuries and nerve damage. The hospital announced last month that it was appealing the verdict.

A New York Supreme Court jury determined that the Dr. Carla Eng-Kohn and the Northern Westchester staff were negligent during the delivery of Bruce and Mary Swanson’s son. As a result of the shoulder dystocia birth injury, the child suffered brain damage, nerve damage and internal bleeding, as well as multiple bruises. The jury determined that the staff had failed to handle the situation in a timely manner, leading to permanent brain stem damage.

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During shoulder dystocia, if an infant becomes stuck in the birth canal, there is a risk that the child will suffer from oxygen deprivation that can lead to brain damage, cerebral palsy and other disabilities. In addition, the child can suffer injuries to the brachial plexus nerves in the baby’s shoulders, either from pressure while being stuck or due to the doctor using too much force to deliver the infant. This can cause Erb’s Palsy (Brachial Plexus Injury), which is a form of nerve damage that can severely and permanently limit the ability of the child to use their arm.

The Swansons’ child suffers from developmental delays, aspiration pneumonitis and speech impairment. They filed their lawsuit against the hospital in 2006. The verdict was one of the highest jury awards handed down in the state last year.

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