Brachial Plexus Injury Lawsuit Goes to Trial in Alabama

Ava Lawson | October 4th, 2013 | Posted in Cerebral Palsy Lawsuit News

Brachial Plexus Injury Lawsuit – Birth Malpractice Caused Nerve DamageOn September 24, an Alabama medical malpractice case went to trial before Madison County Circuit Judge Dennis O’Dell. The plaintiff, Cynthia Henley, argues that Dr. Jacqueline Sylvester, a board certified doctor with 20 years experience, should be held liable for birth injury malpractice that allegedly led to her infant daughter’s permanent nerve damage.

Henley claims that Dr. Sylvester used excessive force during her child’s delivery and improperly managed shoulder dystocia complications. Her daughter, who weighed over nine pounds at the time of her birth, suffered an irreparable brachial plexus injury and her right arm has now been rendered useless.

To compensate for her child’s future health care costs and other damages, the plaintiff is seeking between $1.8 million to $2.1 million in her brachial plexus injury lawsuit.

Medical mistakes at the core of brachial plexus injury lawsuit

The lawsuit has finally reached trial more than six years after the child’s birth. According to the suit, Henley’s daughter was delivered via emergency C-section in September of 2007, at two weeks before term.  The plaintiff contends that her physician did not offer a Cesarean delivery option before the birth, despite the fact that her baby was exceptionally large (over 8.3 pounds) – a known predisposing factor for shoulder dystocia.

During the labor, the baby’s shoulders became lodged in the birth canal and Dr. Sylvester allegedly used too much force when attempting to extract the child. These attempts included two failed tries with vacuum suction that popped off the child’s head during both tries. In her efforts to deliver the child Sylvester and another member of the delivery room team pushed the baby’s head back into the womb before ordering an emergency C-section.

And while the C-section saved the child’s life according to Dr. Sylvester, the mother says that her doctor’s actions and extreme force caused irreparable damage to her infant’s delicate brachial plexus nerves, which run from the spine to the arms and hands. A birth injury malpractice attorney representing Henley confirmed that the girl’s hand is completely non-functional with no strength.

Expert witnesses called to provide testimony

Legal counsel for the defense told Alabama jurors that Dr. Sylvester’s professional opinion led her to believe that Henley’s baby would not be oversized, since the woman’s first child was not especially large. The doctor further stated that even with a larger baby, the size and weight does not always indicate risk of shoulder dystocia. Attorneys argued that after employing textbook steps to manage shoulder dystocia and prevent harm to the baby, Dr. Sylvester’s actions ultimately saved the little girl’s life.

During the trial, jurors will be presented evidence and testimony from a number of expert witnesses to help determine if Dr. Sylvester breached the standard of care and subsequently injured Henley’s daughter.

While some types of brachial plexus injuries can resolve on their own over a period of weeks, others are permanent in nature, and can require ongoing therapy and/or a procedure known as sensory re-education that can improve feeling in the fingers and hands. Others leave patients with permanent loss of function and disability in the affected limb.


  1. AL.com - Trial begins for Madison obstetrician sued for malpractice, defense argues she saved baby's life, http://blog.al.com/breaking/2013/09/trial_begins_for_madison_obste.html

  2. ASSH - Brachial Plexus, http://www.assh.org/Public/HandConditions/Pages/BrachialPlexus.aspx