Hospital sued in kidnap of baby Sinai negligent, parents charge

September 20, 1990|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Evening Sun Staff

For Linda and Douglas Norris, their firstborn's first birthday was a sad reminder.

"The more we tried to put it behind us, the more we were reminded," said Linda Norris, a legal secretary.

"Today, it's his first birthday and we're still reminded," said the 31-year-old mother.

On Sept. 21, 1989, 2-day-old Avery James Norris, who was delivered by Caesarean section, was kidnapped from Sinai Hospital about 10:30 a.m. by a woman dressed as a nurse. It was nearly two months before the child was returned to his parents unharmed.

Yesterday, the couple, with their bouncing, crawling 35-pound toddler present, announced they had filed a $38 million civil lawsuit in Baltimore Circuit Court against the hospital, alleging negligence for failing to provide adequate security to protect their child.

The hospital, however, denies any wrongdoing.

The couple are seeking $10 million in compensatory damages for them and their son because of the mental anguish they were subjected to. They are also seeking $20 million in punitive damages for them and their son and $8 million for other damages.

An attorney for the Norrises, Stuart R. Blatt, said the case is probably the first child abduction case to go to trial. Others usually settle out of court, he said.

Blatt said Sinai wouldn't "come up with an amount of money that was reasonable." He said he expects the case to go to trial within a year.

But Douglas Norris said, "It's not for the money. It's for the principle of the matter."

He said, "Hospitals need to spend whatever money it will take to provide security," and that he's not suggesting locking hospital room doors, but "you have to wake up to the '90s."

"We're sending a message to other hospitals, if you allow this to happen, then you have to pay for it in every way," he said. The couple said they don't want this to happen to someone else.

According to Vicki Hunter, the hospital's spokeswoman, the charges are unfounded.

"We believe we acted appropriately . . . and that we ha appropriate security in place at the time of the abduction of the infant," Hunter said.

Furthermore, she said, the abduction involved a "third party." She was referring to Karleane Wilkinson, 26, who was found guilty of kidnapping and sentenced to prison. She was mother to three children.

Avery, who weighed 8 pounds, 12 1/2 ounces at birth, was recovered Nov. 15 when police arrested Wilkinson at her Woodmoor home, after receiving a tip from a suspicious county health department clerk. Wilkinson tried to obtain a birth certificate for a child she claimed had been born at home.

Hunter said that when the baby was recovered, the hospital performed a series of blood tests to verify that the child was biologically theirs.

Meanwhile, Linda Norris said the ordeal has changed their lives. It pushed them in front of the media. They have appeared on the Oprah Winfrey and Jane Wallace television talk shows, discussing missing children.

"Our lives were shattered," she said.

And "Everywhere we go, we get stopped."

People recognize them from television and ask how their son is.

"When we go to a mall or to a Carvel store, people stop us," shsaid.

Nonetheless, they are thrilled to have Avery back. They say he loves to eat.

"He doesn't discriminate against any foods," the father said.

The Norrises said they planned to celebrate Avery's first birthday quietly at home with family and friends.

When he was missing, "I hoped and prayed that I would see him on his first birthday," said Linda Norris.

"You never know what's going to happen.

"I just thank God."

Linda Norris, who is 4 months pregnant, said she doesn't plan to return to Sinai.

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