Wednesday, February 8, 2012

New York Law Journal Covers Fourth Department Case Precluding "Maternal Forces of Labor" Defense

Today, the New York Law Journal covers the Fourth Department's recent decision in Muhammad v. Fitzpatrick, holding for the first time that a common defense in brachial plexus injury cases, "maternal forces of labor," was properly precluded because the defendant failed to prove that the theory passed the Frye test.  Below is an excerpt from the Law Journal's article:

"In what may be a national first, an appellate panel in Rochester has rejected as scientifically invalid a standard defense in obstetrical medical malpractice cases.

The Appellate Division, Fourth Department, in Muhammad v. Fitzpatrick, 11-01764, upheld Erie County Acting Supreme Court Justice Timothy J. Walker's preclusion of evidence that a newborn's injuries were caused in the birthing process and not by the actions of the doctor or hospital.

Justice Walker [] held that the 'maternal forces of labor' theory advanced by the defense was based on 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.' He said the theory did not satisfy the New York-adopted federal standard for admissibility—Frye v. United States, 293 F. 1013 (DC 1923)—or the foundation rule set by the state Court of Appeals in Parker v. Mobile Oil Corp., 7 NY3d 434 (2006). The Fourth Department unanimously affirmed."

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