Our experience is that an Erbs palsy case is kind of hard to lose. Most are settled, and the few that are not, generally have a good defense. Here is a midwest juror’s take on a lost Erbs palsy case.
"The first notice got lost, so when I got the warning noting my failure to report to jury duty three months ago, I quickly called and rescheduled to report on Feb. 5. "A day off. Yeah!" I thought.
Lucky me, I had a low number. After being picked and kicked off the jury for a rape trial, I was called up again a second time for a malpractice lawsuit. I had to sit for two hours that day, and one hour the next before the entire 14-member jury was completed. It seemed so many people had an excuse. Who knows whether they were legitimate or not.
For nine days, the 14 of us, eight men and six women of all ages and walks of life, sat listening to opposing viewpoints. It was like I was back in biology class. I took notes to remember the key points of each witness.
Several OB/GYN doctors, a neurologist and an orthopedic surgeon taught us all about the techniques to deliver a child with a shoulder dystocia, and treatment of brachial plexus (Erb’s palsy) injuries.
Basically, two physicians were accused of using inappropriate procedures to deliver a child after he was delivered to the head and got stuck. Three others were being sued for failure to conduct a last-minute ultrasound to determine birth weight and offer the woman a C-section since, the plaintiff’s attorney argued, there were signs that she would deliver a large baby – he was 10 pounds, 6 ounces at birth – and since she had other risk factors for dystocia.
The methods and procedures were drilled into our heads, over and over again. The standard of care expected of doctors delivering a child in 1998 were drilled into our heads. We saw diagrams, were given demonstrations, and heard testimony from experts paid $5,000 a day to testify.
It was dry, technical stuff but a bit interesting. The Worcester Superior courtroom was cold, and steaming hot in our waiting room. At times, bored from hearing the same thing, I stared at the ceiling, counted the molding, and glanced at the portraits of judges on the walls.
The trial had its emotional parts, like when the mother, in the last stages of pregnancy with her third child, took the stand. The woman, a native of Ghana, seemed to have a hard time understanding some questions.
Something told me she didn’t like being in court. She told us how she has to brush her son’s teeth, tie his shoes, and feed him. She told us how her boy, now 8 and with limited use of his right arm, is often teased by schoolmates. She said since he was born, she could not hold a job since she had to spend so much time caring for him.
Early into her testimony, she closed her eyes, started sniffing and broke down in tears. It was real. I had to look away. I had to try my best to block out the emotions, to not let it cloud my opinion.
The medical records, common sense, my experiences raising a child with limited use of one hand, the fact that the woman was not diabetic and other inconsistencies in the case were the keys that persuaded me to side with the entire jury. In less than 20 minutes of deliberation, we decided that the five doctors were innocent of negligence.
I felt good that we did the right thing, and bad that one side had to lose, that the plaintiffs left the court probably feeling they were wronged once again. I agreed with one juror who wondered whether the now divorced couple’s situation would have turned out differently if they were wealthier, and could have afforded a private doctor.
As a juror, I didn’t see this as one side telling the truth and the other a lie, but figured it was all about perception. Two people could honestly look at the same event and disagree as to what happened. That’s what I learned during jury duty.