$2.9M Settlement in Case of Infant who Became Stuck During Delivery

February 17, 2006

Chicago attorneys Steven Levin and Jeffrey Martin reported they recovered $2.9 million in a settlement on behalf of a baby girl whose shoulder reportedly became stuck during childbirth.

The doctors applied too much pressure to extract the infant, causing nerve damage in the child’s neck, permanently restricting movement of her left arm, according to the attorneys.

“It’s a tragedy to see a child with a lifelong disability from the day they are born, due to the negligence of the doctors trained to care for her,” said Levin, a partner in the law firm Levin & Perconti.

The infant, Destiny Burnett, was born on Sept. 19, 1999. In the process of delivery, her left shoulder became stuck against the pubic bone of her mother, LaShawn Burnett. The birthing emergency is termed “shoulder dystocia.” The incidence of shoulder dystocia is generally reported to be between 0.5 % and 1.5% among newborns, increasing to 5% to 9% as the birth weight of the infant increases, according to the attorneys.

In the event of shoulder dystocia, the doctor can support the head of the baby and apply a small amount of traction during the dislodging maneuvers. When the doctor uses excessive traction on the head while the baby’s shoulder remains stuck, the brachial plexus nerves in the baby’s neck may be injured. The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that conducts signals from the spine to the shoulder, arm, and hand.

Levin and Martin argued that the doctor applied too much force to dislodge the child in a procedure called the “McRoberts maneuver.” This maneuver involves two assistants flexing the mother’s thighs back onto or alongside her abdomen while applying pressure to the mother’s belly below the navel, which may push the stuck shoulder forward.

Doctors may use many different procedures to dislodge the baby’s shoulder so that the baby can safely pass through the birthing canal. In some cases, the doctor can reposition the mother, or the doctor can use his or her hands to maneuver and change the position of the baby. In particularly dangerous and difficult births, the doctor can intentionally break the baby’s clavicle bone, break the mother’s pelvic bone or perform an emergency C-section.

Defendants West Suburban Medical Center in Oak Park and Dr. Joseph Weaver paid the entire amount of the settlement.

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