Erb’s Palsy Lawsuits

It is every parent’s worst fear that something will be wrong with their newborn baby. That’s why the condition that occurs at birth known as Erb’s palsy is especially frightening to see. When a newborn baby has Erb’s palsy, its arm may hang limply from the shoulder down with the wrist and fingers oddly flexed.

While Erb’s palsy is often caused by difficult deliveries, it can also be caused by the actions or inactions of the medical professionals assisting in the birth. If an obstetrician is careless and pulls the baby too aggressively, it can cause damage to the nerves that control movement in the arms and hands. This is unacceptable.

When Erb’s palsy is the result of someone else’s negligence, it is their responsibility to help the harmed baby and their family pay for all the necessary treatments. Find out more about Erb’s palsy and how a lawsuit could help.

What is Erb’s Palsy?

Erb’s palsy is the most common form of brachial plexus injury. The brachial plexus is a network of nerves near the neck that provide movement and sensation to the shoulder, arm, hand, and fingers. The term palsy means weakness or paralysis. As a result of the weakened brachial plexus, it can cause partial or total paralysis of the arm.

The brachial plexus is made up of five spinal nerve roots: C5, C6, C7, C8, and T1. More specifically, Erb’s palsy is when the upper trunk of the nerves — C5 and C6 — are bruised or torn.

This injury most commonly happens at birth and interferes with the growth and development of the affected shoulder and arm.

Estimates put the incidence of Erb’s palsy in the United States anywhere between 1.6 and 2.9 per 1,000 live births. This roughly translates to between 6,400 and 11,600 cases a year.

Erb’s Palsy Background

Erb’s palsy dates back nearly two and a half centuries when an obstetrician wrote the first medical description of the condition in 1768. However, it wasn’t until 1861 did scientist Duchenne de Boulogne coin the term “obstetric palsy of the brachial plexus.”

Neurologist Wilhelm Heinrich Erb pinpointed the culprit of the condition at the level of the C5 and C6 nerves a few years later in 1874. Although some people refer to the condition as Erb-Duchenne palsy, it is commonly simplified as Erb’s palsy.

Types of Brachial Plexus Palsy

There are three main types of brachial plexus palsy injuries.

Erb’s Palsy

Erb’s palsy affects the upper nerves and is the most common type. In fact, it is typically referred to as simply brachial plexus palsy.

Klumpke’s Palsy

Whereas Erb’s palsy deals with the upper nerves of the brachial plexus, Klumpke’s palsy affects the lower nerves — C8 and T1. The muscles of the forearm and hand usually experience full or partial paralysis.

Total Brachial Plexus Palsy

The third type is the least common. Total or global brachial plexus birth palsy is when both upper and lower nerve roots are stretched or damaged. The injuries and symptoms are more severe.

Symptoms of Erb’s Palsy

Here are some of the symptoms of Erb’s palsy:

  • Weakness in one arm
  • Numbness of the arm
  • Arm bent against the body
  • Total or partial paralysis of the arm
  • Decreased grip strength in one hand

Erb’s Palsy Causes

The most common cause of Erb’s palsy at birth is pulling or stretching of the baby’s head and shoulder during delivery. For example, a larger than average baby may be more susceptible to pulling and stretching due to a difficult labor process.

A frequent cause of Erb’s palsy is something called shoulder dystocia. This is a complication where after the baby’s head has been delivered, the shoulder is unable to pass below the birth canal. It is particularly dangerous because if a baby becomes stuck, compression of the umbilical cord could cause death. That’s why obstetricians are typically anxious to get the baby out as quickly as possible by pulling.

The pulling and stretching of the brachial plexus can occur naturally during the delivery process, but it can also be caused by a negligent medical professional who injures the baby through actions and inactions.

Filing an Erb’s Palsy Lawsuit

When a child is born with Erb’s palsy, it can be a heavy emotional, physical, and financial burden on the entire family.

Some estimates say that up to 90 percent of those who suffer from Erb’s palsy during birth will regain motion in their arm within the first year of their life. However, the journey is not always easy. Doctors may recommend physical therapy, but children with slow-developing arms could still suffer from lifelong problems. In the most severe cases, surgery is required to repair the damage.

If a child was born with Erb’s palsy as a result of the negligence of a healthcare professional — whether it was pulling the baby too hard during delivery or failing to monitor the baby — the child and family deserve justice.

A lawsuit can not only help the family receive compensation for past and future medical expenses but also deter others from perpetrating the same negligence that led to the injury.

How an Erb’s Palsy Attorney Can Help

Proving negligence in an Erb’s palsy case is not easy, which is why a qualified attorney is highly recommended. It is the burden of the victim to prove that negligence took place and that the Erb’s palsy was a direct cause of that injury.

Contact an attorney as soon as possible to learn more about next steps.