A Spalding, Neb., family won a $1.3 million judgment this week when a jury found an Omaha midwife and Nebraska Methodist Health System negligent in the delivery of their son.
Brooke and Tim Reilly argued successfully in Douglas County District Court that negligence caused their boy, Benjamin, to suffer paralysis of his right arm.
The parents said the certified nurse midwife, Marilyn Kay Lowe, inappropriately pulled the infant's head and manipulated his shoulders when he became stuck during the delivery at Methodist Hospital. That caused spinal nerves in his neck to rupture, leading to paralysis, the plaintiffs said.
“She pulled so hard that it ripped three nerves” in the neck, one of the Reillys' attorneys, Joseph Cullan, said in an interview.
Another Reilly attorney, Patrick Cullan, said the case reflected poorly on midwifery. “If she (Lowe) is typical of midwives in this state, that is a very scary thing,” he said.
Autumn Cook, chairwoman of Nebraska Friends of Midwives, said it wasn't fair to say that about midwives. Midwives and obstetricians both encounter unexpected situations, Cook said.
“Birth is unpredictable, and they do the best they can,” Cook said.
The defendants' attorney, John Weis, did not return a phone call Wednesday afternoon. Methodist Hospital spokesman Ed Rider said he wouldn't comment because there was a good chance that the hospital would appeal the jury's ruling.
The defendants said in court papers that they practiced the “applicable standard of care” in the case and that any injuries “were not the result of actions by any of the defendants.”
Lowe led Benjamin's parents to believe it would be a low-risk delivery, the Reillys' attorneys said. The delivery took place July 7, 2005, at Methodist Hospital.
The plaintiffs said the midwife induced labor because she suspected that the infant would be extremely large. The infant's size raised the risk of complications and should have compelled the midwife to bring in an obstetrician, the plaintiffs' attorneys said.
The attorneys argued that the baby's size did, in fact, cause him to become stuck during the delivery. Lowe, the midwife, didn't call a physician until after the delivery.
Because of the injuries he suffered, the boy, now 4 years old, has undergone complex surgeries to provide some motion in his arm. One or more additional surgeries will be necessary, the attorneys said.
They said he will have bone, joint and spine problems, and a right arm that is shorter than his left. The $1.3 million will go toward medical bills, Benjamin's lost earning capacity, pain, suffering and attorney fees.
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