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Case Example: Misapplication of Forceps

Posted on August 26, 2012

In this case, a minor plaintiff’s mother consulted with Duffy + Partners when she was approximately three years old. She believed that her daughter suffered a facial injury at the time of delivery resulting in permanent disfigurement of the skin below her left eye. Her mother had brought this to the attention of the doctors while the baby was still in the hospital and later to her pediatric provider, all of whom dismissed its significance. The injury had not been given a diagnosis and the plaintiff’s mother was frustrated and angry about the care her child received at delivery. We agreed to investigate the case.

Although the mother had consulted with another lawyer, no one had ever obtained a copy of the child’s records (a separate medical chart from the mother’s) from her birth hospitalization. Although never mentioned in the mother’s records, in the child’s chart, the pediatric providers specifically described the child as having suffered “forceps trauma."

Duffy + Partners retained a nationally-known board certified expert in obstetrics who reviewed the case and matched up the injury on the child’s face to a second injury on the back of the child’s head conclusively establishing it was caused by misapplication of forceps during the delivery. Defendants denied that they negligently applied the forceps, that they caused the injury to the child’s head and insisted that the disfigurement on the child’s face was a birthmark.

The case went to trial and to verdict with the defendants continuing to deny their responsibility for the injury. We were able to demonstrate to the jury with actual forceps and an anatomically accurate infant doll how the injury occurred when the forceps were misapplied. The defendants retained a nationally-known expert in ocular- plastic surgery who testified that the disfigurement on the child’s face was not a forceps injury but simply a type of birthmark. We were able to effectively undermine this testimony with photographs from the expert’s own book contradicting his position in court. The jury returned a verdict in favor of minor plaintiff.