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Amari Broughton-Fleming had a difficult entry into the world. Doctors induced his delivery, then found his shoulder was trapped behind his mother's pelvis. A doctor was able to dislodge the arm, tugging on Amari's head in a swift downward motion, and he was born healthy at 8 pounds, 13 ounces.
Except for his right arm. It was paralyzed at birth and a pediatric neurologist diagnosed permanent nerve damage in Amari's shoulder, nerve damage his mother's lawsuit claimed was due to the doctor's negligence. And a jury in New Castle County, Delaware agreed, awarding her $3 million in damages.
A Lot of Living to Do
Monica Broughton claims her son, now nine, has "a lot of living to do with this impairment." Although subsequent surgeries improved mobility in the arm, he has difficulty zipping his pants, can't ride a bike, and even has trouble playing his favorite sport, soccer. Even when his arm is at rest, his mom claims, a couple fingers twitch uncontrollably, and his right arm is four inches shorter than his left. "He asks if his arm is ever going to be normal," Broughton told the News Journal. "He wants it to grow."
When the neurologist initially diagnosed Amari's nerve damage, the doctor found two of the shoulder's network of five nerves were ripped completely in half, and the remaining three were overstretched to the point of not functioning. Broughton claimed the damage was due to OB-GYN Peter Wong forcefully pulling Amari out by his head during delivery, and that he failed to disclose the risks involved with the procedure.
A Very High Bar
Broughton filed suit in 2014, and the verdict is somewhat of a rarity in Delaware. The vast majority of medical negligence lawsuits in the state get settled behind closed doors and Delaware requires unanimous jury verdicts in civil suits, "a very high bar" according to Bruce Hudson, Broughton's attorney. Hudson also claims he offered multiple times to settle with Wong's insurer, but was turned down.
On the other hand, juries can be sympathetic to birth injuries. "When the baby suffers an injury at birth," medical malpractice attorney Randall Robbins told the News Journal, "awards are always at the higher end because they're usually life-altering."