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Birth Injury Lawsuit Nets $5.5 Million for Plaintiffs

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Burlington, IAJust a few days shy of her 5th birthday, a Burlington girl and her parents were awarded $5.5 million by a Des Moines County court jury for birth injuries sustained when Nyasia Gerling was born on February 1, 2007. The little girl suffered a shoulder dystocia at birth and has limited use of her right arm.

According to a recent report in The Hawk Eye of Burlington, Iowa (1/25/12), it is anticipated that Nyasia will have issues with her right arm and shoulder for the rest of her natural life.

The plaintiffs, Jaime and Ingrid Gerling, alleged during their birth injury malpractice litigation that the physicians and hospital where Nyasia was born could have done more to prevent the birth injury to their daughter. The shoulder dystocia occurred when the child's right shoulder became wedged against a bony structure in the mother's birth canal, likely the pelvic bone, according to the report. The resulting birth injury suffered by the baby impacted nerves in her brachial plexus—nerve fibers that run from the spine, through the shoulder, arm and hand.

The trauma during birth impacted the bundle of nerves, leaving the baby without any function in her right arm. Two subsequent surgical procedures have given the little girl partial use of her arm, and there may be further surgeries in the offing. Regardless, it is likely the child will have issues for the rest of her life and she will never have full use of her arm, according to the plaintiff's legal team.

The defendants—two physicians as well as the Great River Women's Health center in West Burlington, Iowa, were reported to have been unwilling to settle and the case went to a jury. Following deliberations, the jury awarded Nyasia a total of $5 million for pain and suffering, and loss of function. Her parents were awarded $500,000 for past and future loss of consortium.

The total award in the birth injury lawsuit was $5.5 million. It is not known if the defendants will appeal the verdict. A spokesperson from Great River Women's Health withheld comment while the facility analyzed the decision.

With the help of a birth injury law firm, the plaintiffs endured a two-week trial. The jury deliberated for a total of nine hours before rendering its verdict. The birth injury compensation case was launched by the Gerlings in 2009, two years after the birth of their daughter.

A shoulder dystocia is considered an obstetrical emergency, according to the report. The plaintiffs alleged the doctors and the facility named in the birth injury lawsuit could have done more to prevent what resulted in a life-long injury to their daughter. The defendants, according to the birth injury malpractice litigation, "breached the standard of care for obstetrician and were negligent." The two surgeries Nyasia has already endured cost the family $74,000. There may well be additional surgeries required.

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