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Minneapolis Shoulder Dystocia Lawyer

Shoulder dystocia occurs when the baby’s shoulders get stuck in the pelvis during delivery, stopping the birth process from going forward. It’s one of the most common causes of medical litigation, and occurs in up to 3 percent of pregnancies.

Shoulder dystocia often occurs with little warning and is hard to predict, but getting the kind of care you need, and are legally entitled to, means your health providers have thought through all the possible complications and devised a thoughtful delivery plan.

The most common cause of shoulder dystocia is the use of a vacuum or forceps to assist with the birth process. Other main factors associated with shoulder dystocia births are: 

  • Baby is male
  • Baby is born bottom first (breech delivery), not head first 
  • Maternal obesity, or excessive weight gain during pregnancy
  • Medically induced labor
  • Mother is using an epidural
  • Exceptionally long or short second period of labor 
  • Abnormal pelvic anatomy 
  • Delivery occurs after due date
  • Advanced maternal age
  • Mother has diabetes, or develops it during pregnancy
  • Previous shoulder dystocia during another pregnancy, which increases the odds of a second one to one in ten

Brachial plexus injuries—which damage a bundle of nerves near the neck that control movement and feeling in the arm, hand, and shoulder—are one of the most common complications, occurring up to 16 percent of the time after shoulder dystocia.

Other injuries include:

  • Compression of the baby’s umbilical cord 
  • Fractures to the collar bone (clavicle) or upper arm bone (humerus) 
  • Fetus is denied oxygen supply (hypoxia), which can be fatal
  • Hemorrhages and deep cuts or tears (lacerations) to the mother’s vagina and cervix
  • Damage to the mother’s bladder
  • Tears to the perineum, the area between the anus and vulva 
  • Abnormal connection between lower portion of the large intestine and vagina (rectovaginal fistula)
  • In rare cases, tears to mother’s uterus

While shoulder dystocia can happen unexpectedly, getting the legal standard of care you deserve means that your providers are taking the right steps well before the birth occurs, then on through delivery and beyond. 

Before birth

Prior to birth, care providers should carefully monitor factors like fetal weight and position, which can influence shoulder dystocia. Additionally, they should be aware of anomalies in the uterine anatomy and other pre-existing risk factors that up the chance of complications. In some cases, especially in women whose previous pregnancies included shoulder dystocia, mothers and their doctors might conclude a C-section is the best way to avoid further risk. If complications are anticipated, proper care involves letting the right personnel know ahead of time, so that when delivery occurs, the birth site has the proper staffing, which may involve a family physician or obstetrician, pediatrician, neonatologist, labor nurses, anesthesiologists, and neonatal or nursery nurses.

During birth

During the birth process, there are a number of key moments where injury can be avoided—or malpractice can occur. Doctors should catch an important early warning flag that dystocia is occurring if they see the “turtle” sign, when the baby’s head emerges but then retracts. One of the most common causes of shoulder dystocia is during assisted vaginal birth, when tools like suction or forceps can be (mis)used to dislodge the baby and continue with the birth process. Additionally, doctors have a number of methods to physically maneuver the baby or mother to relieve pressure and free up movement. The risk of dystocia increases the more maneuvers are used. Extreme cases require the careful application of surgical and other techniques, such as a C-section, local anesthesia, or even surgical interventions to rotate the baby or break its collarbone to relieve pressure. 

After birth 

Medical providers’ obligation to you isn’t over once delivery ends. If the dystocia causes nervous injuries to the baby, it will likely need a speedy referral to a specialized treatment center and consultation with a multi-disciplinary group of providers (pediatrics, physical therapists, neurologists, etc.). They should provide the proper neurological and physical tests to see if the dystocia resulted in any serious problems, as well as the regular, effective physical therapy to help recover from them and avoid issues like deformity, or the mispositioning of joints and limbs. 

In serious cases, surgery might be necessary. If the dystocia complications cause excessive bleeding in the mother, she might need a blood transfusion. Additionally, even though much can happen in a short time during delivery, your providers must meticulously document the whole process, and explain it clearly so you understand what happened, and what your options are for the future.

Under Minnesota law, you usually have 4 years to bring a malpractice case against your doctor or hospital. 

Malpractice robs a child and their mother of their health and peace of mind, and a medical malpractice suit can help take back some of what you’ve lost. There are no caps on damages in Minnesota, and you are eligible to recover resources which help you meet a number of challenges, including:

  • Medical bills and costs
  • Lost income
  • Past bodily and mental harm, including:
    • Pain
    • Disability
    • Disfigurement
    • Embarrassment
    • Emotional distress
  • Future bodily and mental harm, including:
    • Pain
    • Disability
    • Disfigurement
    • Embarrassment
    • Emotional distress

Minnesota birth injury malpractice lawyers help mothers with shoulder dystocia complications.

It can be confusing, painful, and time-consuming to sort out what went wrong, but you don’t have to do it alone. If you call us, we may be able to use our network of lawyers and medical experts to review your records and help get you the relief you need, including compensation for medical bills, future treatment, lost income, and pain and suffering. 

You’ve already been let down once, which is why we operate under a contingency fee structure for maximum fairness: we only receive payment if we help you get what you deserve, either a settlement or victory at trial. 

Get in touch with us here if you’re ready to have allies who understand.


We have a process that works in getting exceptional results for our clients. 

We are trial lawyers who prepare every case for trial from Day 1. Investigation and legal research are the first things we do, and we spend a lot of time on them. Because we haven’t filed the case yet, we have complete control – the defendant has no say and we want to use this time wisely.  We interview witnesses that can help us prove the case.  We’ll ask you for all relevant documents in your possession and review those carefully as well.  We also will spend some time conducting legal research about unique issues in the case.  We pull the jury instructions that the judge will ultimately charge the jury with after closing arguments at trial. 

Our next step is typically to send a demand letter to the defendant. In the letter, we thoroughly lay out: the facts surrounding the defendant’s misconduct; the applicable law (including statutory and case citations) that make clear that the defendant broke the law; an analysis of your damages and the defendant’s monetary exposure; a demand for a monetary amount to settle the claim; and an instruction to preserve all relevant evidence, including electronic evidence. The point of this letter is to give the defendant a chance to do the right thing and pay a fair amount before litigation, and to give the defendant an opportunity to present any defenses or evidence it wants us to consider before moving forward.  Sometimes we skip the demand letter if there are strategic reasons to move straight to filing, but we typically give defendants a chance to do the right thing.

If early negotiations fail, great – we file a Complaint and serve the defendant with it. A Complaint is a legal document that states the facts of what happened and alleges how the defendant broke the law. It formally starts the lawsuit.  Many lawyers draft complaints in a general and relatively vague way, just to get it done and filed – because that’s all that’s really required.  We take a different view. We view the Complaint as our first chance to tell your story to the judge, and we take it seriously. So we draft detailed complaints and include legal citations to statutory and judicial authority on unique points.  Sometimes we’ll include a number of exhibits, diagrams, or other demonstrative aids to help the Court understand our claims.  A secondary benefit of this approach is that defense lawyers reading the Complaint can become educated on the problems of their case and the state of the law – sometimes this leads them to reach out to us shortly after service of the Complaint to re-initiate settlement negotiations.  Of course, by that time, the price for settlement has gone up.

Some lawyers view written discovery as a necessary evil – something to get done and out of the way before depositions.  Not us.  Written discovery is a gift and an opportunity.  We spend a great deal of time crafting requests for documents and interrogatories (questions for the defendant to answer in writing) that are specific, detailed, and tailored to get what we need to prove our case.  Many lawyers – even great ones – think written discovery is a waste of time because defense lawyers typically answer them on behalf of their clients and can try to stonewall with legalese and objections.  We view this as a wonderful opportunity.  In our experience, most defense lawyers can’t help themselves when answering discovery: they over-state their defenses and make assertions that their clients will not be able to support in testimony. So we get to commit the defendant to defenses that they can’t back up, leading to contradictions, confusion, and chaos in their depositions later on.  We also use Requests for Admission – which many lawyers don’t.  The Federal Rules and Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure allow us to ask defendants to “admit” certain facts.  We send them RFAs that are very difficult for them to deny.  Of course, they do it anyway, but that sets them up later for cost and fee-shifting, which the Rules mandate for defendants that deny RFAs that are later proven true.  And usually, we can get the defendants’ own witnesses to admit facts that their defense lawyers denied in RFA.  That’s a great situation that leads to more chaos and confusion on the defense side.

One last point on written discovery – we send multiple waves of it throughout discovery.  We typically send 3 or 4 sets of written discovery requests to defendants throughout discovery.  This compounds the problems for them, because the defense lawyers continue to overstate their defenses, but now run into contradictions from not just the defendant witnesses’ deposition testimony, but also their own previous discovery responses.  This makes for a great record that we can present to the judge at dispositive motions, and use for impeachment at trial.

This is our chance to question relevant witnesses, on the record with a court reporter (we typically videotape important depositions as well). We get to confront the defense witnesses with all of the evidence we’ve developed through written discovery and document production. By this time, the defendant put its witnesses in an impossible position through its written defenses, which are often untrue and indefensible.  So the witness has to either lie to support the defense, or admit it’s not true.  That’s a dilemma that works for our clients either way, no matter which option the witness takes.  We use depositions to expose contradictions, create a record for dispositive motions, lock witnesses into their stories so that we can impeach them later at trial, and sometimes, to show defense lawyers how hopeless their case is.  We often calls from defense counsel shortly after depositions of their clients, seeking to re-start settlement negotiations.

The defendant will usually make a motion for summary judgment after discovery, asking the Court to throw out the case without having a jury trial. Because we’ve hit discovery so hard – both through written discovery and depositions – this is a tough motion for defense counsel to write in our cases.  We draft our response for the Court and now get to bring everything together: the admissions, contradictions, nonsense, and obvious fact disputes that we’ve uncovered through discovery.  We tell a compelling story that wraps everything together for the Court and makes clear that the defense motion has to be denied, and the defendant needs to face a jury for its conduct.

Sometimes, we’ll even make an affirmative motion for summary judgment, asking the Court to grant judgment in favor of our client without a trial. These motions are generally rare for plaintiffs to make, because the defendant can usually point to some fact dispute on its intent or some other factor that necessitates a trial. But we make affirmative summary judgment motions significantly more than is typical for plaintiffs, and that’s because the work we put in during discovery helps build a fantastic record to do so.

After the Court denies the defense motion for summary judgment, the defendant has only 2 options: 1) do the right thing and pay you a fair amount to our client to settle your claim (usually much, much more at this point than the defendant could have paid at the beginning of the case to settle); or 2) face a jury for its conduct and risk an enormous verdict. This is the dilemma that we have been creating and forcing the defendant into for the entire case. We’ll engage in settlement negotiations at this point from a position of extreme strength, mainly because most defendants are (rightly) terrified of facing a jury to defend their conduct.

This is, candidly, our favorite part of the case – why we went to law school: to hold the powerful accountable before juries.  We prepare heavily for trial, including: detailed witness preparation, focus groups, and mock trials.  At this point, the potential outcomes and consequences for the defendant are much more severe than if it simply did the right thing at the beginning of the case and paid a fair amount to compensate our client for its misconduct.  As we advocate to the jury for our client, we’re also mindful of protecting the record so that defendants will be unsuccessful in attacking the verdict in post-trial motions or appeal.

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