New Castle News

March 20, 2014

Poppy seed salad lawsuit settled

John K. Manna
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Lawrence County Children and Youth Services has settled a lawsuit filed by a mother against the agency in 2011.

Under the settlement agreement, the county will pay $160,000 in damages and legal fees to Eileen A. Bower.

Bower filed the suit against the agency and Jameson Health System in U.S. District Court, saying her baby was taken from her after she tested positive for opiates in July 2009. She had consumed a pasta salad containing poppy seeds the day before giving birth, according to the complaint.

The settlement agreement was released after a request was made under the state’s Right-To-Know Act.

County solicitor Thomas W. Leslie declined comment, citing a confidentiality clause in the settlement. An attempt to reach attorney Stanley Booker, Bower’s counsel, was unsuccessful.

District Court Judge Terrence F. McVerry granted motions by Jameson Health System and children and youth services caseworker Eva Lightel for summary judgment and dismissed both as parties in the lawsuit in August 2013.

Bower’s complaint states that upon her admission to Jameson Hospital on July 12, 2009, she underwent a urinalysis/drug screen. She gave birth the next day.

The results of the urinalysis revealed the presence of opiates in her system, but not in the baby’s.

Jameson contacted children and youth services on July 13 and disclosed the test results. On July 15, Lightel obtained a court order granting the agency’s permission to take custody of the baby boy, the complaint said. Children and youth services took the baby on July 16.

According to the complaint, the baby “was bounced from home to home.” He was eventually returned to his mother’s care following a hearing on Sept. 28, 2009, which was 75 days after he was taken.

The complaint states that before she was admitted to the hospital, she was at a barbecue and had consumed “several portions” of a pasta salad. Poppy seeds can produce a false positive for opiates.

Last July, Jameson Hospital and children and youth services reached a settlement to pay $143,500 in damages and legal fees involving a woman who ate a bagel with poppy seeds shortly before giving birth.

The woman, Elizabeth Mort, tested positive for opiates in April 2010. The baby was placed in foster care for five days before being returned to her family.

An attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, who represented Mort, said Jameson and children and youth services have changed their procedures as a result of the settlement.