In its unpublished opinion filed on May 2, 2017, the Court of Appeals of North Carolina (“North Carolina Appellate Court”) held that the trial judge did not commit error in refusing to allow the plaintiff’s biomedical engineering expert, who was not a licensed medical provider, from testifying with regard to causation in a medical malpractice case involving the injuries suffered by the baby during delivery due to the mechanical forces applied to the baby’s body during the delivery.
The North Carolina medical malpractice plaintiffs alleged that on March 14, 2007, while the plaintiff was undergoing a prolonged delivery of her baby in the hospital, the baby’s head was delivered but the delivery was complicated by shoulder dystocia. For two minutes, two of the North Carolina medical malpractice defendants made several unsuccessful attempts to deliver the body of the baby, which was finally successfully delivered but the newborn’s head had significant molding with caput/bruising with excoriation, and also had bruising of the face, lips and chest near the left nipple area, and also there was no movement noted in the left arm.
On August 15, 2007, the baby was diagnosed with a brachial plexus palsy and Horner’s syndrome on the left side, requiring brachial plexus exploration, neurolysis and nerve grafting surgery with a clavicular osteotomy that was performed on September 4, 2007. A nerve avulsion at C6 and a partial nerve avulsion at C7 were observed at the time of surgery.
The plaintiffs brought their North Carolina birth injury lawsuit against various defendants. On September 3, 2015, the North Carolina medical malpractice jury returned its verdict in favor of defendants, and judgment was entered on September 17, 2015, from which the plaintiffs appealed.
The plaintiffs argued on appeal that the trial judge had committed reversible error when he precluded the plaintiff’s expert in biomedical engineering and the assessment of forces employed in the management of shoulder dystocia from testifying as to causation during trial. The trial judge held that the proffered expert could not render an opinion on medical causation in this case because he did not have medical training.
The North Carolina Appellate Court noted that the plaintiff’s biomedical engineering expert stated during voir dire that he is not a medical doctor but has a Ph.D. in engineering; has never delivered a baby; has never been in a delivery room where a live shoulder dystocia event has occurred; has never measured the forces during a live birth where a permanent shoulder dystocia or permanent brachial plexus injury has occurred; was not qualified to offer any medical opinions; and was not qualified to offer standard of care opinions.
The North Carolina Appellate Court held that the plaintiffs’ expert “had no medical training or clinical experience. He was not a healthcare provider. He had never delivered a baby, never been in a delivery room where a live shoulder dystocia event had occurred, and had never measured the forces during a live birth where a permanent shoulder dystocia or permanent brachial plexus injury had occurred. Accordingly, we hold that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by excluding causation testimony from [the expert].”
Source Wilson v. Ashley Women’s Ctr., P.A., No. COA16-1004
If you or your baby suffered a birth injury during labor and/or delivery in North Carolina or elsewhere in the United States, you should promptly find a birth injury lawyer in your state who may investigate your birth injury claim for you and represent you and your child in a birth injury case, if appropriate.
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