In its opinion filed on March 26, 2021, the Illinois Appellate Court First District Sixth Division (“Illinois Appellate Court”) stated in affirming the defense verdict in a birth injury medical malpractice case: “we cannot conclude that the jury’s general verdict for Goodwin and Associates, nor its finding that someone other than Goodwin caused Landon’s injuries, were against the manifest weight of the evidence. For the reasons stated above in discussing the sole proximate cause instruction (supra ¶¶ 80-81), we find that there was evidence that, if believed by the jury, would reasonably cause it to conclude that Hutter applied excessive traction and Goodwin did not, so that Goodwin did not cause Landon’s permanent brachial plexus injury. In other words, while there were material discrepancies between Goodwin’s accounts of events before and at trial, a reasonable trier of fact could find her trial testimony credible, especially in light of the other medical expert testimony, and find in her favor.”
The Underlying Facts
Plaintiff Christine Ghostanyans (“Christine”) was a patient of Pamela Goodwin, M.D. (“Goodwin”) on and before August 24, 2012, and received prenatal care from Goodwin and defendant Northshore Associates in Gynecology & Obstetrics, S.C. (“Associates”). On August 23, Christine was admitted to a hospital of Northshore University Health System (“System”) because she was in labor, and Goodwin monitored her labor that day into the next.
Goodwin identified a turtle sign at the time of delivery of the fetal head and diagnosed a shoulder dystocia. Thus, on August 24, 2012, after the diagnosis of shoulder dystocia, downward traction was applied in an attempt to relieve the shoulder dystocia, and the baby’s delivery took about four minutes. The baby suffered an avulsion of his C8 nerve root, brachial plexus palsy, injury to his phrenic nerve, and diaphragmatic palsy at the time of his delivery.
The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants were negligent for failing to utilize appropriate maneuvers to relieve shoulder dystocia or using downward traction in an attempt to relieve shoulder dystocia. These negligent acts or omissions were allegedly the proximate cause of the baby’s injuries, pain and suffering, disfigurement, disability, and loss of a normal life, causing him to incur ongoing medical expenses and limiting his capacity to earn a living. In both counts, the plaintiffs, as parents and next friends of their baby, sought more than $50,000 from the defendants.
The plaintiffs’ expert’s report stated that “[a] shoulder dystocia occurred at the time of Landon’s delivery,” which Goodwin recognized, and “certain maneuvers were initiated in attempts to dislodge the impacted shoulder,” as well as “use of downward traction as an attempt to complete the delivery.” However, “application of traction by a physician in the presence of a shoulder dystocia is a deviation from the standard of care.” Landon was later “diagnosed with brachial plexus palsy as a result of an avulsion of his C8 nerve root” and underwent nerve transfer surgery. The physician opined that the “condition of Landon’s arm at delivery was consistent with injuries caused by physician-applied traction,” with “no medically reasonable explanation for the extent of injuries other than the use of excessive downward traction by the physician during delivery,” so that Goodwin’s professional negligence caused Landon’s brachial plexus palsy.
The defendants admitted that Goodwin monitored Christine’s labor that day into the next, identified a turtle sign at the time of delivery of the fetal head, and diagnosed a shoulder dystocia. They admitted that after the diagnosis of shoulder dystocia, downward traction was applied in an attempt to relieve the shoulder dystocia, but Goodwin and Associates denied that Goodwin applied downward traction.
Later, the plaintiffs added as a defendant Loren Hutter, M.D. (“Hutter”), an “on call” physician at System’s hospital, who attended Landon’s delivery on August 24, 2012, in that capacity. The counts of the amended alleged that “after the diagnosis of shoulder dystocia, [Hutter] applied downward traction to [Landon’s] head and neck” and delivered Landon. Hutter was allegedly an agent or employee of System, acting in the scope thereof, on August 24, 2012.
Hutter and System subsequently settled with the plaintiffs for $1.4 million and they were dismissed from the Illinois medical malpractice birth injury lawsuit.
The Illinois Appellate Court held: “we find that there was evidence that, if believed by the jury, would reasonably cause it to conclude that Hutter applied excessive traction and Goodwin did not, so that Goodwin did not cause Landon’s permanent brachial plexus injury. In other words, while there were material discrepancies between Goodwin’s accounts of events before and at trial, a reasonable trier of fact could find her trial testimony credible, especially in light of the other medical expert testimony, and find in her favor.”
Source Ghostanyans v. Goodwin, 2021 IL App (1st) 192125.
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