A Delaware State jury on September 28, 2017 ordered Dr. Peter Wong, an obstetrician who practices in Dover, to pay $3 million in compensation to a child who developed a palsy in his right arm after being pulled out by the head during delivery.
Delaware Jury Awards $3 Million For Nerve Damage
A physician at Dedicated To Women OB-GYN, Dr. Wong committed medical negligence during the birth of a boy, now 9-years-old, the Superior Court of Delaware jury held, according to Delaware Online. The child’s family filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against Wong in 2014, accusing the obstetrician of pulling with excessive force on their child’s head and neck.
At the time, Dr. Wong was attempting to resolve a case of shoulder dystocia; the baby’s shoulder had become stuck behind his mother’s pelvic bone. But the doctor pulled too hard, the parents claimed, which led to nerve damage in their child’s arm.
The Delaware jury agreed, deciding unanimously based on expert medical testimony that Dr. Wong had mismanaged the delivery to such an extent that his actions should constitute medical malpractice. Delaware law requires a unanimous jury verdict in all civil cases, which is why most lawsuits around medical malpractice in the State settle out-of-court.
Insurer Refused To Settle Before Verdict
In total, the boy and his family have been awarded $3 million in damages. Dr. Wong continues to deny allegations of wrongdoing and Robert Schacheri, the president of Dedicated To Women OB-GYN, says the company is considering an appeal. The practice’s insurance company, ProAssurance, refused multiple settlement offers advanced by the family’s attorney before trial.
And while the parents have yet to pay attorney’s fees, their 9-year-old son is certainly excited about the jury’s decision. When he heard about the judgment, the boy said, “I’m a millionaire.” His mother, however, “knows that jubilation is short-lived,” Delaware Online writes. “He asks if his arm is ever going to be normal,” she told reporters. “He wants it to grow.”
Excessive Force Led To Birth Injury, Mother Says
In an interview with the USA Today-owned news outlet, the mother explained her son’s birth injury in more detail. As she told the site, she was diagnosed with gestational diabetes during her 2008 pregnancy. That was cause for concern, since the pregnancy-related condition can lead to high blood sugar that, in turn, may come to harm a developing baby.
So the mother, in consultation with her medical team, agreed to undergo labor induction at Kent General Hospital. Dr. Peter Wong managed the labor and delivery, but when the physician ultimately diagnosed shoulder dystocia, he “tugged [the child’s] head in a swift downward motion to try to dislodge it,” the mother says. The baby was delivered successfully, but his right arm was limp.
Damage To The Brachial Plexus
A few months later, a specialist in pediatric neurology diagnosed the child with a brachial plexus injury. The network of five nerves running from the spinal cord through his right arm had sustained significant damage, the doctor said. Two of the nerves had been torn entirely. The other three were stretched so far that they no longer worked.
While the article does not confirm a diagnosis, the boy’s symptoms sound similar to Erb’s palsy. His right wrist curls inward toward his body. His fingers twitch involuntarily when the arm is at rest. And, even after two surgical procedures, he still cannot touch his stomach or lift his arm fully behind his head. The boy’s condition is expected to be permanent, court documents report.