A D.C. Superior Court jury has awarded $237,000 to a five-year-old Clinton, Md., child and his parents, who alleged in a suit that the doctor who delivered their son used improper methods that left the child with permanent nerve injuries in his arm.
After deliberating Tuesday for four hours, the jury awarded $55,000 to Herbert Williams and his wife, Beverly, and $182,000 to their son, Marcus. The child suffered permanent nerve injuries to his left shoulder and arm when he was delivered July 17, 1974.
Leonard Keilp, attorney for the Williams family, contended during the four-day trial before Judge Fred McIntyre that Dr. Noela V. Carr, a specialist in obstetrics and gynecology employed by the Group Health Administration, applied to much pressure when he pulled the infant -- head first -- from the birth canal.
In the course of the delivery by Carr at George Washington University Hospital, the nerves were stretched in Marcus' left shoulder and arm, according to testimony. As a result, the child lacks fine motor control in his left hand, cannot raise his left arm straight up and cannot reach behind his back, witnesses testified.
The Williams' suit initially included George Washington University Hospital, Group Health Administration, Inc., Carr and Dr. Son T. Lee, Mrs. Williams' gynecologist.
The suit against the hospital was dropped several months ago and the jury's verdict on Tuesday cleared Lee and Group Health of negligence and malpractice and assessed damages only to Carr.
Attorneys James P. Schaller and Clifford A. Wilpon, who represented the defendants, argued that Carr was not negligent in his delivery of the Williams baby and that the procedure he used followed "the standards of accepted medical care."
But Keilp argued that Carr did not take all available precautions prior to delivery to determine if the infant, who weighed 9 pounds, 6 1/2 ounces at birth, could pass successfully through the mother's pelvis.
A previous child -- weighing 6 pounds, 13 ounces -- had become lodged in the pelvis when its shoulders could not pass through, Keilp told the jury. The difficulty with the earlier child "should have served as a warning" to Carr that the problem could occur again, Keilp argued in the case.
On the day of delivery, Carr decided before Mrs. Williams' cervix had fully dilated that the baby should be delivered by forceps, according to testimony.
Once the baby was pulled from the uterus by forceps, his shoulders lodged beneath the pelvic bone, according to testimony. Carr then pulled the infant by the head to finally remove him from the lodged position, the jury was told.
Keilp argued during the trial that Carr could have used a variety of tests and examinations to determine whether the use of forceps would be necessary and that he should also have considered a cesarean section delivery.
Doctors who examined the child the day after delivery discovered the stretched nerve condition, known as "Erb's Palsy."
Because of the partial paralysis of his left side, Marcus will be eliminated from most types of work which require the use of both hands, Keilp argued to the jury. He also will not be able to participate in most sports and will need help to put on his clothes, the jury was told.