On September 27, 2013, a Michigan medical malpractice jury returned an award in favor of the plaintiffs in a birth injury case in the amount of $12.9 million after a 12-day trial. The verdict will likely be reduced to approximately $4 million once Michigan’s $433,400 cap on noneconomic damages is applied and the amount of future damages are reduced to their present value, under Michigan law.
The Michigan medical malpractice case arose out of the birth of an 8 pound, 8 ounce baby girl at a local hospital on January 1, 2008. The malpractice lawsuit alleged that the baby’s arm got stuck on her mother’s pelvic bone during the vaginal delivery that the delivering physicians failed to properly respond to, causing the nerves in the baby’s right arm to be severed when the resident physicians pulled too hard on the baby’s head during delivery. The severed nerves caused permanent injury to the baby’s right arm that required multiple surgeries. The now 5-year-old girl has a permanently malformed right arm due to her birth injuries that requires her to wear an arm brace. She is unable to perform common daily activities such as combing her hair or getting dressed due to her arm injury.
The malpractice claim alleged that the physicians failed to either offer a Cesarean section to the mother or perform a Cesarean section delivery that would have avoided the baby’s injuries. The hospital defended the claims against it by alleging that the hospital provided appropriate care, that the techniques used during the delivery were proper, and that issues during the delivery did not require that a Cesarean section delivery be performed. A hospital spokesperson has stated that the hospital may appeal the verdict against it.
The fact that the baby was delivered on New Year’s Day raises a possible issue as to the experience and competency level of the delivering physicians. Senior staff and more experienced physicians are typically not on duty and not in the hospital on major holidays, such as New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Less experienced medical staff working on such holidays may be reluctant to call more experienced medical staff to come to the hospital to provide care and treatment because they do not want to bother their supervising doctors at home or are intimated or reluctant to disturb them on holidays (particularly on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, when off-duty medical staff may have consumed alcoholic beverages).
While we do not know if senior medical staff were consulted during the baby’s delivery in the Michigan malpractice case, we can state that it is human nature to be reluctant to irritate those who have the power to make our professional lives miserable by calling them when they are home with their families or out on the town enjoying their well-deserved rest and relaxation.
If you or a family member suffered birth injuries that may be due to someone’s negligence, you should promptly consult with a Michigan medical malpractice attorney (or a medical malpractice attorney in your U.S. state) who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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