|March 2008 · Vol. 20, No. 03
FOCUS ON PROFESSIONAL LIABILITY
10 keys to defending (or, better, keeping clear of) a shoulder dystocia suit
The main requirement is your time and attention. The payoff is a verdict in your favor.
Inability to interpret a note is almost as damaging to a case as complete lack of a note
Be conversant with the literature and statistics that show dystocia to be an unpredictable event
A child who is large for gestational age on a postnatal chart may not be so on a prenatal chart; know which type of chart is being presented
Seek out an expert on the standard of care as soon as possible after filing of the lawsuit
Any medical instrument you choose to bring into the courtroom should be the very same type that was used in the delivery
Mr. Worek is a Partner at Weber Gallagher Simpson Stapleton Fires & Newby LLP in Philadelphia, where he specializes in the defense of medical professional liability cases.
The author reports no financial relationships relevant to this article.
The heightened risk of being sued for a poor outcome—even when you and the obstetric team have delivered excellent care—is a sad reality of ObGyn practice, especially when shoulder dystocia is involved. Not so long ago, some physicians viewed a lawsuit as one of the costs of doing business and considered settlement of claims to avoid disruption to their practice. Today, with insurance rates skyrocketing, settlement is not as palatable, unless a clear breach of the standard of care has occurred. And although only a small percentage of cases ever reach trial, and fewer still go to a jury verdict, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. A single case can take 5 or more years to make its way through the system.