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November 24, 2012

Parties settle in poppy seed bagel lawsuit

NEW CASTLE — A lawsuit filed when an infant was taken away from her mother two years ago appears to have been settled.

However, the terms have not been made public.

The case stemmed from Elizabeth Mort of Neshannock Township having eaten a poppy seed bagel before going into labor and later testing positive for opiates at the hospital in April 2010.

The parents, Elizabeth Mort and Alexander Rodriguez, filed a lawsuit after Jameson Hospital contacted Lawrence County Children and Youth Services, which removed the baby from Mort and placed her in temporary foster care for about a week.

The hospital then learned the positive test was the probable result of her having eaten a poppy seed bagel before going into labor. Poppy seeds contain trace amounts of opium.

The suit was filed on behalf of the baby’s parents by American Civil Liberties Union attorneys against Jameson Hospital, Children and Youth Services, its director Jane Gajda, its supervisor Sandy Copper and caseworker Chrissy Montague.

A U.S. District Court judge had ordered a conciliation conference in Pittsburgh for the parties involved. Those included attorneys for the baby’s parents, Children and Youth Services and its supervisor and caseworker, and Jameson Health System.

Sara J. Rose, the ACLU attorney, said last week she was hopeful a settlement would be reached.

In an order late last week, U.S. District Court Judge David Stewart Cercone confirmed a settlement had been reached “as to all aspects of” the couple’s complaint.

Attempts to reach Rose Wednesday afternoon for comment about the settlement were unsuccessful.

Lawrence County Solicitor Thomas W. Leslie said Wednesday he was unaware of the terms of the settlement, but commented that typically, the county’s share would come out of its insurance deductible, which totals $25,000.

The county has its insurance through Pennsylvania Counties Risk Pool under the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania. Attorney Marie Jones of the Jones Passodelis law firm of Pittsburgh, representing the pool, handled the case on the county’s behalf. Attempts to reach her Wednesday also were unsuccessful.

Jameson spokeswoman Lisa Lombardo said she was unable to reach a hospital spokesperson who would comment on the case.

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)

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