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Sep 2011

Susan Donnelly Murphy successfully defended three physicians in a complex medical malpractice action in which the defendant obstetricians allegedly failed to ascertain a history of shoulder dystocia and allegedly failed to properly address the shoulder dystocia when it recurred.  The plaintiff claimed that the infant suffered a permanent injury to his brachial plexus, a cluster of nerves running from the neck into the arm.  Plaintiff alleged that a surgical delivery should have been offered and that the delivering physicians applied excessive force to the fetal head.  One defendant physician was dismissed from the case upon summary judgment, based upon the deposition testimony of plaintiff’s own expert. 


The defense experts testified, at deposition, that the combination of a severe shoulder dystocia and the maternal forces (contractions and pushes) likely caused the infant’s injury, because there was no evidence of excessive force applied by physicians.   Plaintiff’s motion to exclude the defendants’ expert testimony as unreliable was denied by the Court, which held that there was ongoing scientific controversy regarding the causation of brachial plexus injuries and that the  Court would not decide between two valid theories of causation.  In short, the Court found that the defense theory was reliable and allowed it to be submitted to the jury. 


At trial, the defendants’ expert testified that there was no evidence of excessive traction at delivery and that the brachial plexus nerves were injured as a result of the combination of shoulder dystocia and maternal expulsive forces.  After a two week jury trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of both of the two remaining physicians. 

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