Erb’s Palsy /Brachial Plexus Injury

Medical Malpractice

What is Erb’s Palsy

Erb’s palsy or Brachial Plexus Palsy is a birth injury to the nerve groupings in the baby’s shoulder.  It is usually caused when the medical professional has difficulty passing the head and infant’s shoulder through the birth canal.  The baby’s head will delivery normally through the vaginal canal, but then the infant’s shoulder bone will become stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone.


If the doctor or midwife pulls with force or twists the baby’s head while his or her shoulder is stuck it can injury the brachial plexus nerves causing them to become stretched, torn, or ripped out of the spinal cord (avulsion).  The brachial plexus nerves radiate down the arm into the hand and allow people to control their elbow, arm, and movement in the wrist and fingers.  If these nerves are permanently damaged in the delivery process it can permanently impair the baby’s ability to control movement in his hand, wrist, elbow, and fingers depending on which nerves are damaged.


There are five nerve roots in the brachial plexus: C5, C6, C7, C8, and T1.

An infant with erb’s palsy may suffer from paralysis in the shoulder region.  Many cases of erb’s palsy resolve on their own without medical intervention after several months.  However, some severe cases require physical therapy and surgery and may involve lifelong injuries.

Here, due to excessive force applied by a practitioner, the baby’s brachial plexus nerves have been injured. Avulsions are shown above.


Symptoms of Erb’s Palsy

Erb’s palsy created by birth delivery is usually quite recognizable.  Often, the infant’s arm will hang limply from the shoulder and the wrist and fingers will be bent (flexion).  Other Symptoms of Erb’s Palsy and Brachial Plexus Palsy can also include:

  • Lack of movement or feeling in the arm;
  • Pain radiating from the arm;
  • Inability to use certain muscles in the arm, shoulder, or hand

To determine the severity of the injury, often an exploratory surgery is required so that a neurologist or orthopedic surgeon can examine the degree of injury to the nerves.  Often the

Causes of Erb’s Palsy

Erb’s palsy can be caused by medical negligence when the doctor or medical provider:

  • Pulls the infant’s head and neck to the side as the infant’s shoulders pass through the birth canal.
  • Places pressure on the infant’s raised arms during a breech delivery (feet first).
  • Pulls on the infant’s shoulders with too much force during the delivery.

Pursuing a Brachial Plexus Erb’s Palsy medical malpractice lawsuit

While the majority of cases of Erb’s palsy can be cured, they can involve multiple and extensive surgeries and prolonged physical therapy on the infant with no certainty of success. Approximately ten percent of Erb’s Palsy cases at birth, however, lead to lifelong conditions and permanently disable the child.  This child will grow up recognizably different from other children and will have their life activities limited depending on the severity of the condition.


Sadly, permanent brachial plexus, Erb’s Palsy, and Klumpke palsy is almost always preventable through proper monitoring during prenatal care and using appropriate delivery methods that conform with the proper standard of care.


Oregon Birth Injury Attorneys who obtain results in brachial plexus malpractice cases

If your child was diagnosed with a severe brachial plexus injury, Erb’s Palsy, or Klumpke’s palsy, and it was caused by medical malpractice, you can bring a claim seeking to be compensated for your increased medical bills, future medical and therapy bills, and your child’s pain, suffering, and emotional harm.  Contact Kuhlman Law at (541) 385-1999 to immediately to set up a free consultation.  Once we conduct a thorough review your infant’s medical records we will be in a position to advise you if your child’s injury was the result of medical negligence and apprise you of your rights and the next steps.  If we accept your case, we will do so on a contingency fee basis which means you will not owe any legal bills unless you receive a recovery.


We are one of the few law firms in the entire country that has obtained a multi-million dollar trial jury verdict in a brachial plexus medical malpractice case.


We handle cases throughout Oregon including: Bend, Portland, Salem, Eugene, Corvallis, Medford, Deschutes County, Central Oregon, Sisters, Redmond, Lake Oswego, Hillsboro, Multnomah County, Washington County, Hood River, Clackamas County, Oregon City, Jefferson County, Crook County, Coos Bay, Lane County, Douglas County, Yamhill County, Tillamook County, Clatsop, Columbia Klamath, Wasco, Madras, Prineville, Crook, Lane, Pendleton, Umatilla, La Grande, Albany, and Vancouver, Washington.

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