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Erb’s Palsy claim against doctors moves forward in court. N.R. v. Northwell Health, Inc. 2023 N.Y. Slip Op. 50123 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2023)


In a complex legal battle involving North Shore University Hospital and associated medical professionals, a family sought justice for alleged medical malpractice during childbirth in 2016. The lawsuit accused the healthcare providers of negligence that reportedly led to severe birth injuries, including Erb’s Palsy.

Erb’s palsy is a form of brachial plexus palsy that occurs when the nerves in a baby’s upper arm are injured. It often happens during difficult childbirths or deliveries involving excessive pulling on the shoulders during a head-first delivery, or pressure on the baby’s raised arms during a breech delivery. In New York, as in many places, Erb’s palsy remains one of the most common birth injuries. This condition can result in weakness or loss of motion in the affected arm, and while some babies recover over months with physical therapy, others may require surgery to regain full function.

Background Facts
In 2016, during the delivery of an infant at North Shore University Hospital, medical staff were accused of applying excessive lateral traction to the infant’s head and neck. This action allegedly resulted in a right clavicle fracture and Erb’s Palsy, a form of brachial plexus palsy. The plaintiffs claimed that this mishandling during delivery caused permanent damage. The medical team, including Dr. Sharlene Sanidad and Dr. Sharon Gerber, faced accusations beyond direct malpractice, including lack of informed consent and various failures in hospital operational duties like supervision and training.

Whether the defendants, through their actions or omissions during the labor and delivery process, were liable for the injuries sustained by the infant and whether there was a failure in informed consent and proper hospital protocols.

The court granted the motion for summary judgment in part and denied it in part. Specifically, the claims related to direct medical malpractice leading to the infant’s injuries were maintained, allowing these claims to proceed to trial. However, additional claims concerning hospital protocols and informed consent were dismissed.

The court found that the defendants initially fulfilled their burden of proof for summary judgment by presenting evidence from Dr. Iffath Abbasi Hoskins. Dr. Hoskins asserted that the medical actions taken were within the standard of care and that informed consent was appropriately obtained. Conversely, the plaintiffs countered effectively with expert testimony indicating that the medical staff deviated from accepted practices by applying improper traction, directly causing the infant’s injuries.

The discrepancies in witness testimonies, particularly the conflicting accounts of the delivery process provided by witnesses and medical staff, introduced substantial issues of fact that needed evaluation at trial. The court decided these conflicting narratives presented credible disputes over the facts essential to determining liability, thus denying summary judgment for the direct medical malpractice claims.

The plaintiffs also claimed lack of informed consent and loss of services.  In this context, lack of informed consent refers to the allegation that the healthcare providers did not sufficiently inform the patient about the risks, benefits, and alternatives of the medical procedures performed during childbirth. This claim suggests that the patient would have chosen differently had they been fully informed, potentially avoiding the injury. The court dismissed this claim.

Loss of services refers to the claim that the injured party has suffered a loss of the services or support they would have received if not for the injury. This can include the tangible contributions of care, companionship, and other forms of support that the injured party would have provided to their family or household. This claim was also dismissed.

If you or a loved one have experienced complications during childbirth that may involve medical malpractice, it’s important to reach out to an experienced New York birth injury lawyer who can help navigate the complexities of medical malpractice law and help ensure that your rights are protected. This case underscores the importance of thorough legal and medical evaluation to ensure justice for affected families. For a consultation, contact Stephen Bilkis & Associates who can provide the guidance and advocacy needed in these sensitive cases.

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