On August 5, 2002, a Berks County, Pennsylvania jury awarded an infant and his parents $2,289,856.00 against the Reading Hospital and Medical Center and Fredericka Heller, M.D., in a medical malpractice case involving issues surrounding the labor and delivery of Bailey Boyer on May 8, 1998. During the course of the delivery, Bailey developed shoulder dystocia, a condition in which the baby’s shoulder becomes lodged against the mother’s pelvis after the head has already been delivered.
The issues at trial concerned Dr. Heller’s efforts to dislodge the shoulder, as well as those of the nursing staff in attendance. Plaintiffs alleged at trial that Dr. Heller used improper techniques and excessive traction in attempting to dislodge the shoulder. As a result, several of the major nerves of the brachial plexus were torn from Bailey’s spinal cord, leaving him with severe and permanent limitations in the use of his right arm and hand.
The defendants denied responsibility and claimed that standard and accepted procedures were followed in the management and care of Bailey’s shoulder dystocia.
Bailey subsequently underwent three surgical procedures at Texas Christian Hospital in Houston, Texas, in an effort to restore some function to Bailey’s arm and hand. The plaintiffs proved at trial that the severity and permanency of Bailey’s brachial plexus injury would require him to undergo additional surgical procedures in the future as well as extensive physical rehabilitation and therapy. The plaintiffs also established at trial that Bailey had suffered a significant lifetime loss of earning capacity, as a result of the permanent physical limitations associated with Bailey’s brachial plexus injury,
Central to the plaintiffs’ allegations was the fact that the actions allegedly taken by Dr. Heller and the nursing staff to dislodge the shoulder were not documented in the hospital records. Plaintiffs established at trial that Bailey had been turned 180 degrees after the shoulder had impacted but before any of the standard maneuvers had been performed. Plaintiffs contended that the avulsion or tearing of Bailey’s spinal cord nerves occurred during the course of this 180 degree turn and was the result of excessive traction applied to the baby’s head.
The jury found that both defendants were negligent in the labor and delivery of Bailey and apportioned liability evenly – 50% against defendant, Reading Hospital and Medical Center and 50% against defendant, Fredericka Heller, M.D.