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Medical Malpractice/Femoral nerve damage after delivery


Hello. My name is Gina & I am a Registered Nurse. I gave birth to my 1st child 6wks ago. I was actively pushing for approx 5hrs & did have an epidural. My son is perfectly healthy. However, I have left leg femoral nerve damage post delivery. I have numbness from my anterior mid thigh to ankle with no patellar reflex. I also had urinary retention for the 3 days I was in the hospital. During my hospital stay I had one fall during a transfer from my bed to the bathroom. I was with a nurse at the time of the fall. After the fall I was not placed on fall precautions, nor was I assessed until the following morning. I had asked to speak with the anesthesiologist several times before he came to speak with me. He was very insistent the numbness was not related to the epidural & was related to pushing. He did not have a reasoning for the urinary retention. I then asked for a neurology & urology consult. The neurologist did not see me until the following day. He stated he agreed the nerve damage was not related to epidural but instead related to pushing. He had no explanation for the urinary retention. I asked for testing to rule out epidural hematoma and a nerve study, but was told testing would not show anything at this time & I needed to wait weeks to have any testing done. I never did get to see a urologist. I did void Sunday morning, but no one ever did explain why I had urinary retention. I was discharged with my newborn on a Sunday with a walker. I was told to call my insurance myself to process billing for the walker & to find an outpatient physical therapist. After calling multiple outpatient clinics I did manage to make an appt. & am going once a week. I also found a neurologist on my own not associated with the hospital. He did an EMG, labs & is scheduling an MRI. I do not have results of EMG yet. He also stated the nerve damage is from pushing & said it is possible my urinary retention was also related to being in litho tony position for a prolonged time & pushing. His prognosis for recovery is approx 3mths. I have regained some strength but not any sensation over the last 6wks. I am utilizing a walker, I purchased a shower chair & raised toilet seat. I'm still unable to climb steps, my husband helps me daily with these activities of daily living. physical therapy at the hospital did not do a home eval prior to discharge, meaning they never asked if I have steps in my home, steps to get into my home, or assessed my need for additional medical equipment. I'm unable to walk with my newborn in my arms when he crys for fear of falling with him. This is my first child and is heart breaking that I need help caring for him.
My family wants me to discuss my situation with an attorney. Being a nurse, I'm not sure the doctor was actually negligent during my delivery. I'm definitely upset this is my current situation, but I'm not sure what could/should have been done differently. I'm disappointed in my care to say the least. Being that I walked into the hospital independently & came home with femoral nerve damage, is reason enough to at least have someone review my situation.
Any suggestions/advise would be great appreciated.
Thank you, Gina

Hello Gina:  Congratulations on your new baby.  It is unfortunate that you have the problems you describe following the delivery but you have said yourself that you don't know what "could/should have been done differently".  Surely, as an RN yourself have you not seen many many times that the result to some procedure didn't have the perfect or at least best possible outcome?  Sometimes patients have bad outcomes or difficult recoveries even when everything was done properly and by the book; right?  

A medical malpractice case is always very difficult and very expensive and no lawyer is interested in taking on a case that will cost hundreds of hours of work, 10s of thousand of dollars (experts on both sides, deposition, litigation costs etc. etc.) and even in the best cases, rarely better than a 50/50 chance of succeeding and being paid UNLESS:

1.  The alleged negligence by the doctor or hospital is obvious, eggregious, clear as a bell, even outrageous and that this negligence (malpractice) was the direct cause of very serious injuries to the patient.  Think of it this way: imagine 10 OBs studying every detail of your case and your current situation.  You won't have a viable legal case unless 7-8 of those OBs would say something like this:  "My God, what was Gina's doctor thinking.  He clearly should have .........
or clearly should not have .......... Gina's care was mishandled and the care she received was BELOW THE STANDARD OF CARE.  Her doctor should have known better than to ............... (fill in the blank) and therefore yes, Gina's doctor was negligent and responsible for her injury".
You see Gina, just having a bad outcome or less that what was expected is not evidence of malpractice.  You need very clear events in your care that no reasonably competent doctor would allow to happen.  We don't have that here do we?

2.  Even if your providers did commit malpractice..............let's say leaving you in the lithotomy position long beyond the time commonly accepted as the maximum to avoid nerve damage, the case would still be strongly defended on many grounds resulting in long and difficult and expensive litigation.  So, the second element of a malpractice case......DAMAGES....... must be very very high for any lawyer to take the very big risk of filing your case.  The value would have to be well into the 6 figures at a minimum.  This means you would have to be permanently injured/disabled to some extent or require major or multiple surgeries..........well you get the point.  The injury must be very serious and long lasting.  I am glad to say, and so should you, that you in all likelihood don't qualify.

Even if we did think there was out and out negligent care it is far too early to do anything about it other than get the medical care or allow the time necessary to recover as much as possible.  You say you are getting stronger.  It has been less that 2 months. Hopefully you will continue to improve until you make a full recovery so any lawyer you approach would say "let's wait and see how you do".  However, unless there was something very strange about the care you received, something very suspicious for your providers not paying attention to what they were doing and thus making gross mistakes in that care, it is unlikely any lawyer would have any interst.

The poor beside manner, the poor management for referrals etc. is unfortunate but nothing that would contribute to a malpractice case.  I have dealt with a few nerve damage cases following epidurals or spine taps but it is very difficult if not impossible to prove malpractice.  Nerves run differently in different people so it is an accepted risk that nerve damage can result even when the procedure is done properly.  Therefore, no malpractice.  If the problem was caused by the "pushing", you would have to prove by experts on your side that you pushed so much that they should have anticipated you could have nerve damage and rushed you to C section.  Obviously, there would not be any such proof.  Who knows how much pushing is too much, from person to person.  Give it some time.  Maybe physical therapy could help. I'm betting you will be fine.  Good luck

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Glenn A. Dorfman


Thirty-four years experience in personal injury, medical malpractice and medical product liability law. Qualified to answer all questions regarding injuries and the law, except for worker`s compensation. Also wide experience in medical product defect cases ie current litigation regarding the Johnson&Johnson (DePuy)defective hip implant cases and Mirena IUD issues


Thirty-four years experience handling cases involving auto accidents, trips and fall, fires, dog bite,medical malpractice and defective medical product cases with particular emphasis in 2012 and beyond with the DePuy ASR (Johnson&Johnson) defective hip implant cases. Twenty-five years of experience with defective IUD issues as well

Jurisdoctor Degree 1976 and Member in good standing with CA State Bar Assoc. since 1976

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