Parents sue obstetrician over alleged negligence during childbirth resulting in permanent injury

In a recent court filing, plaintiffs Ariana Williams and Brandon Steels have lodged a medical malpractice complaint against Dr. Joseph Thomas, an obstetrician, alleging that his actions during the delivery of their son, Jarron Steels, resulted in permanent injuries. The complaint was filed on May 24, 2024, in the Circuit Court of Cook County. The plaintiffs claim that Dr. Thomas’s negligence during the delivery process caused Jarron to suffer from a permanent brachial plexus injury.

The case revolves around the events that transpired during the birth of Jarron Steels. According to the plaintiffs, complications arose when Jarron’s shoulder became stuck in the birth canal due to shoulder dystocia—a condition where one of the baby’s shoulders gets lodged behind the mother’s pubic bone after the head has exited. Dr. Thomas attempted several maneuvers, including using a Kiwi vacuum and performing the McRoberts maneuver and suprapubic pressure techniques to free the baby’s shoulder. Despite these efforts, Jarron was born with a permanent injury to his left arm and shoulder.

During the trial, Dr. Thomas testified about his decision-making process and actions taken during the delivery. He stated that he encountered Ms. Williams when she was fully dilated but her contractions were insufficient to complete delivery without assistance. He used a Kiwi vacuum to aid in delivery but found that Jarron’s anterior shoulder was stuck against Ms. Williams’s pubic bone. Dr. Thomas described employing various maneuvers such as McRoberts and suprapubic pressure to release the baby’s shoulder.

The plaintiffs presented expert testimony from Drs. Richard Luciani and Daniel Adler who argued that Dr. Thomas deviated from accepted standards of obstetrical care by applying excessive lateral traction during delivery, which they claimed led to Jarron’s brachial plexus injury. They asserted that natural forces of labor could not have caused such an injury without excessive traction being applied by Dr. Thomas.

Conversely, defense experts including Drs. Steven Clark and Michael Ross provided testimony suggesting alternative causes for brachial plexus injuries beyond excessive traction by a physician during delivery. They referenced medical literature indicating other potential causes such as in utero crowding or natural movements within the birth canal which could result in similar injuries.

Despite conflicting testimonies from both sides’ experts regarding whether excessive traction was applied or if other factors contributed to Jarron’s injury, the jury ultimately returned a verdict in favor of Dr. Thomas.

The plaintiffs objected to several aspects of how evidence was handled and how jury instructions were given during trial proceedings—particularly concerning expert testimonies about possible causes for brachial plexus injuries aside from physician-applied traction—and subsequently filed an appeal arguing these points.

In their appeal briefings before Justice Lyle at Illinois Appellate Court First District Fifth Division alongside Justices Mikva and Navarro concurring; Plaintiffs contended errors occurred allowing certain expert testimonies while also disputing jury instruction adequacy which they believed misled jurors thus leading towards unfavorable verdict against them contrary evidentiary weight presented supporting claims made initially upon filing suit against Defendant-Appellee Doctor Joseph Thomas MD

Plaintiffs sought reversal lower court’s judgment seeking new trial fair consideration facts circumstances surrounding son’s birth injuries compensatory damages accordingly reflecting negligence alleged initially upon filing suit Circuit Court Cook County under presiding Judge James Varga Case ID No 2017 L 8130.

This article was first published in Cook County Record.

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