Case Studies

Settlement achieved for mother following mismanaged shoulder dystocia during child’s birth


We have recently settled a claim against Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust after our client suffered a psychological injury arising from the distressing nature of her daughter’s birth, complicated by shoulder dystocia, which was neither recognised nor managed appropriately.

Our client was a Type 1 diabetic and her first child had been delivered via forceps due to shoulder dystocia.

During her second pregnancy, it was recognised that her first delivery had been complicated by shoulder dystocia but the medical records showed no evidence that the option of delivery via caesarean section was discussed with her, as it should have been.

The pregnancy progressed without complication and she was admitted to hospital in May 2013 after being induced at 38 weeks. The labour progressed well until decelerations in the fetal heart rate were noted and the decision was taken to deliver the baby via forceps.

It was at this point that the medical records of the delivery set out a completely different account of the birth, when compared to our client’s recollection and that of her husband and mother, who were also present at the time of delivery.

Our client was in a significant amount of pain due to the fact that an epidural, which had been administered earlier, had not been given effectively. She recalls being able to feel the forceps being used and has a very vivid memory of feeling the forceps being twisted inside her. Her mother and husband also clearly remember seeing the obstetrician insert the forceps and make a very sharp turning motion in order to deliver the baby.

The medical records for our client painted a very different picture, suggesting that the forceps were put in place and with one pull the baby was delivered. However, there were concerns that the medical events had not been recorded properly as there was a two minute gap unaccounted for in the records. Furthermore, despite there being no reference to shoulder dystocia in the records, there was reference to the “McRobert’s position” being adopted. This is a procedure used to manage shoulder dystocia and to attempt to deliver a baby successfully without injury.

Once our client’s daughter was born, it was recorded that her right arm had bruising and she appeared to be in a significant amount of pain. The new born baby then underwent a number of investigations and our client was given mixed messages as to what injury had been caused during delivery. Eventually, our client was informed that her daughter had suffered Erb’s palsy, a right clavicular fracture and bruising down her right arm and around the right side of her chest. None of the doctors could explain to our client how her daughter had been injured during birth, since the medical records did not describe any trauma or difficulties during delivery.

Our client was understandably very distressed by what happened during her daughter’s delivery, but also by the lack of information and answers she was given by the doctors afterwards. Subsequently, she was diagnosed with post‑traumatic stress disorder and received cognitive behavioural therapy for the trauma she witnessed during her daughter’s birth.

Following a full investigation, our clinical negligence team obtained expert evidence concluding that, despite the very brief and inconsistent notes recording the delivery, there was evidence of shoulder dystocia. There appears to have been a failure by the obstetrician and the midwives to recognise the fact that the birth was complicated by shoulder dystocia and then in turn a failure to appropriately manage this in order to avoid our client’s daughter being born with Erb’s palsy.

After putting forward the allegations of negligence to the defendant trust, liability was denied on the basis that our client’s daughter’s birth was not complicated by shoulder dystocia. The defendant continued to rely on the medical records, which made no reference to shoulder dystocia. Despite this, although the defendant was not prepared to alter its position on liability and causation, after further negotiations it did offer to settle our client’s claim and we are pleased that we have been able to achieve a good result for her.

We are also pleased to have settled a claim on behalf of our client’s daughter for the injury she suffered during her delivery. As she is a minor, this settlement will need to be approved by the court.


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Penningtons Manches LLP

Penningtons Manches LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales with registered number OC311575 and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. San Francisco is an associated office.

Penningtons Manches LLP