Helen Thompson settled a case against King’s Mill Hospital in Nottinghamshire involving a birth in 1993 during which an Erb's Palsy injury was sustained.
Growing up, Miss M was aware that she had a drooping right shoulder and a disability in her right arm and hand. As a toddler she had been diagnosed with weakness and muscle wasting and loss of joint movement. As she grew, she developed strategies to manage day-to-day tasks to compensate for her disability. However, when Miss M started driving and working as a carer she found that her pain and symptoms in her arm, shoulder and back became more severe and it became difficult to cope.
Miss M understood that the disability in her right shoulder, arm and hand was due to a nerve injury, but it was not until she reached her 20s that she was told that she had an Erb’s Palsy. Her research showed that this injury can be caused by negligent management during labour and delivery of a baby so Miss M began to question whether her birth had been managed inappropriately and her mother confirmed there had been a lot of pulling by the midwife during her delivery.
In 2013, at the age of 20, Miss M instructed Fieldfisher to investigate the circumstances of her birth. At the time of Miss M's birth, her mother was 24 years old and this was her second baby. Her first child had been large and required a forceps delivery and during her pregnancy with Miss M, from 35 weeks, the baby was seen to be large. During the birth, after delivering Miss M's head, the midwife noted in the records that there was shoulder dystocia (that the baby’s shoulder was stuck) but then proceeded to deliver Miss M by pulling. She did not follow the procedures required when shoulder dystocia occurs and did not call for assistance, reposition the mother or perform manoeuvres to release the trapped shoulder. Miss M weighed 4.6kg and an Erb’s palsy of her right arm was noted. Miss M has been left with a permanent Group II brachial plexus injury which will not improve and will affect her for the rest of her life.
Independent reports were obtained from experts in midwifery, obstetrics and plastic and hand surgery. Several allegations were made on Miss M’s behalf, including that the only way she could have sustained a permanent injury to the brachial plexus nerves was due to the midwife applying excessive and inappropriate traction to her head and neck while her right shoulder was stuck in her mother’s pelvis. The allegations of negligence were wholly supported by the independent experts instructed.
Despite this, the Hospital Trust made a full denial of liability, specifically that any of the hospital staff had applied excessive or inappropriate traction to the Claimant’s head and neck while her shoulder was impacted behind the symphysis pubis that would cause a right brachial plexus injury or a group 2 obstetric brachial plexus palsy. Instead, the Trust asserted that Miss M’s injury was caused by mal-position of her shoulders and the effect of contractions and maternal pushing during labour.
However, despite the denial, a few months later, the Trust made a substantial offer of settlement and a full admission of liability and Miss M’s claim was later settled in the sum of £750,000.
Miss M commented:
“It has taken a long time to get to this significant point in my claim and I am very grateful to my legal team. I am still only young and I am in pain every day. I am scared about how much pain I will have in future and how I will manage to work and manage day-to-day tasks. Knowing that I will recover some compensation for my Erb’s Palsy injury is a huge relief. It is very reassuring to know that I will have funds that I can use for therapies, assistance and equipment to help me cope in future. This makes living with my pain and disability and my worries about my future that bit easier to deal with”.
Image credit: By Ctfretwell (This was taken on a visit to King Mills hospital) [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0) or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Sign up to our email digest