Lawrence County paid $160,000 to settle case of baby taken after mom ate poppy seeds

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Lawrence County Children and Youth Services has settled, for $160,000, a lawsuit filed by a woman whose child was taken away following a false positive opiate test apparently caused by pasta salad.

In the settlement agreement released Friday following a request under the state Right-to-Know law, the county agency admitted no liability for what happened to Eileen Ann Bower in 2009. Ms. Bower's attorney declined comment, citing a confidentiality clause in the settlement.

When Ms. Bower of New Castle gave birth to Brandon Brothers II at Jameson Hospital, she was given a routine urine test, according to the complaint she filed in U.S. District Court in 2011. The hospital told the agency she tested positive for opiates. The agency took the newborn when he was 3 days old and put him in foster care for 75 days, according to the lawsuit.

A bewildered Ms. Bower realized later that she ate Supreme Pasta Salad with poppy seed dressing at a picnic not long before going into labor. Poppy seeds contain opium-like compounds.

The case isn't isolated.

In July, Jameson Hospital and Lawrence County Children and Youth Services agreed to pay $143,500 to settle a similar lawsuit filed by Elizabeth Mort, whose infant was taken by a false positive drug test apparently caused by consumption of a poppy seed bagel. Ms. Mort's daughter was taken from her family for five days.

The hospital and agency indicated then that they no longer take newborns from their parents solely on the basis of maternal drug tests.

On Tuesday, Rachael Devore sued Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC, saying a false positive drug test apparently spurred by poppy seeds in farmer's market bread resulted in an Allegheny County Children Youth and Families investigation of her family.

The investigation was eventually dropped. UPMC this week declined comment.


Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1542 or on Twitter @richelord. First Published March 14, 2014 3:47 PM

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