Sinai Hospital sued by parents whose baby son was kidnapped

September 20, 1990|By Susan Schoenberger

The parents of a baby stolen last year from Sinai Hospital have filed a $38 million lawsuit against the hospital.

Douglas A. and Linda Norris, whose 2-day-old infant was taken from Mrs. Norris' arms by a woman posing as a nurse, filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Baltimore Circuit Court. The suit asks for $18 million in compensatory damages and $20 million in punitive damages.

"The purpose of the lawsuit is to make a point to other hospitals that parents cannot stand to be treated in such a fashion," Mr. Norris said in a telephone interview.

Mr. Norris said the hospital should have been able to prevent Karleane Wilkinson, who was convicted of kidnapping the baby earlier this year, from entering the maternity ward.

In response to the lawsuit, Sinai officials deny any negligence.

"The incident was committed by a third party unrelated to Sinai and one who has been dealt with in the criminal justice system," said Victoria L. Hunter, a Sinai spokeswoman.

Ms. Hunter said that Sinai had beefed up security two years before the incident after another child had been taken from Johns Hopkins Hospital. She said Wilkinson was familiar with the hospital's system and had found a way to penetrate it.

According to trial testimony, Wilkinson walked into the maternity section dressed as a nurse and entered Mrs. Norris' semiprivate room. She told Mrs. Norris, who was holding 2-day-old Avery James, that a doctor would be arriving shortly to examine her. She then closed a curtain around Mrs. Norris' bed and walked out with the baby.

The baby was returned to the Norrises two months later after police traced him to Wilkinson's home in Woodmoor. Police made the connection after Wilkinson applied for a birth certificate for the baby, claiming she had given birth at home.

Lawyers for the Norrises said the lawsuit asks for $38 million in damages on behalf of both Avery James and his parents. The suit claims that the hospital was grossly negligent in failing to provide adequate security.

The Norrises, who have been in therapy since the kidnapping, have suffered psychological damage, and their son may be traumatized when he learns that he spent his first two months in the custody of a kidnapper, said Gary A. Wais, one of the lawyers representing the Norrises.

"Now they're scared to ever let the child out of their sight," he said.

The Norrises, who are expecting another child in February, said they won't be delivering the child at Sinai. They also said they don't allow anyone outside the family to stay with their son.

"The fear is there," Mr. Norris said.

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