Attorney Joseph M. Lichtenstein Overturns "Maternal Forces of Labor" Defense

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In Muhammad v. Fitzpatrick, Attorney Joseph M. Lichtenstein was successful in overturning the decades old “maternal forces of labor” defense which blocked brachial plexus injury victims from seeking the just compensation that they deserve.

New York Medical Malpractice Attorneys

New York Medical Malpractice Lawyers

This February, the Supreme Court of the State of New York Appellate Division, Fourth Judicial Department returned its decision on Muhammad v. Fitzpatrick (CA 11-01764). Per court documents, Joseph M. Lichtenstein attacked a defense against medical malpractice cases regarding brachial plexus injuries which has been established for over 20 years.

Mr. Lichtenstein represented the plaintiff Belinda Muhammad who was bringing a lawsuit against a New York hospital for causing her child to sustain a brachial plexus injury during the child-birthing process. Per the court documents, the defendant utilized the “maternal forces of labor,” which was a common defense stating that the birthing process itself caused the injury, not the actions of the physicians involved.

Mr. Lichtenstein worked to attack the very foundation of this defense in this case for over two years; he fought to prove that brachial plexus injuries can indeed be caused by the malpractice of a medical professional. In his case, he namely sought to prove that when a doctor uses excessive force during the birthing process, it can actually rip the nerve roots from the spine – resulting in partial or complete paralysis.

One vital aspect of this case, per court documents, was that the “maternal forces of labor” defense was unable to pass the Frye test. This is a test used to determine the admissibility of scientific evidence in civil tests and basically asserts that any evidence utilized must be generally accepted as reliable. This test came from Frye v. United States in 1923 which attacked the scientific evidence of a polygraph test as admissible.

The Appellate Division affirmed the decision that the “maternal forces of labor” defense did not hold up under the Frye test, per court documents, stating that it was a “novel theory.” According to Justice Walker, the two decade old defense did not hold up and was apparently based upon a “'small number of articles written by a few authors, each of whom based their conclusions in part on the writings of other members of that small group.” Thus, by overturning the admissibility of the evidence, families of brachial plexus injuries are now able to seek the compensation that they deserve instead of blaming it on the natural birthing process.

Despite the fact the complexities of the case, Mr. Lichtenstein was successful in helping to overturn the defense as “junk science.” On the front page, the New York Law Journal described the decision as “huge.” Since the decision came out, Mr. Lichtenstein has been asked to speak on numerous occasions to lawyer organizations around the country regarding his success and has since been asked to apply his groundbreaking work.

The Law Offices of Joseph M. Lichtenstein is a New York medical malpractice firm that is proud to serve victims of hospital and doctor negligence, as well as their families. With over 60 years of cumulative experience, the firm has been successful in recovering hundreds of millions of dollars on behalf of their clients. If you or a loved one has suffered from medical malpractice, do not hesitate to get the involvement of their firm. They will stop at nothing to ensure that your best interests are protected as best as possible. To learn more, give them a call today at 888-392-3104 or visit their firm online at

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