ST. PETERSBURG — The adoptive parents of a 3-year-old boy are suing All Children's Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine, saying employees wrongly released the child to his abusive biological parents after birth.
Christopher and Terina Foran say the Pinellas County Child Protection Team had issued a "hold order" to prevent their adopted son from leaving the hospital with his birth mother and father.
The boy later suffered "non-accidental trauma at the hands of his biological parents" that left him disfigured and with permanent neurological and brain damage, according to the lawsuit.
"This is a really tragic case," said Peter Spillis, a South Florida attorney representing the adoptive family. "They knew of the hold, and there is a procedure in the hospital that is supposed to be followed."
All Children's declined to comment on the malpractice suit, which also named four individual employees: social workers Elaine Brown, Nina Bagby and Katherine Lamore, and nurse practitioner Caren Smith.
"All Children's Hospital is unable to comment on active litigation," the hospital said in a statement. "The safety and protection of our pediatric patients is a top priority."
The child at the center of the lawsuit was born Dec. 30, 2012.
Spillis said the baby was delivered at a different hospital in St. Petersburg. But he was transferred to All Children's after his birth mother tested positive for illegal drugs.
The boy was immediately placed under the care of the Pinellas County Child Protection Team, which took steps to ensure he wouldn't go home with his birth mother and father. But on Jan. 15, hospital employees "inappropriately" discharged him, according to the lawsuit.
Spillis said the birth mother and father brought the boy back to the hospital for occasional doctors visits. But he showed up in the hospital May 26 so malnourished that his brain had swollen.
"It resulted in permanent brain damage, partial paralysis of the lower extremities," Spillis said. "He's never going to walk."
The child was later adopted by the Foran family, who filed the lawsuit last week in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court.
The adoptive parents allege the social workers and nurse practitioner should have known the boy's biological parents were incapable of caring for him — and never allowed the pair to take him home.
"They are supposed to make sure the team gets together — the doctors, the nurse practitioners, the social workers — and determine if the child can go home," Spillis said. "That didn't happen."
As a result of their negligence, the child suffered "severe emotional distress, great pain and anguish of the body and mind, disfigurement, loss of earnings and future earning capacity, and loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life, all of which conditions are permanent in nature," according to the suit.
He also needs extensive medical care.
"The most important thing is that this child is looking at a lifetime of therapies and medical care," Spillis said. "That's the number one goal, to get that taken care of."
Contact Kathleen McGrory at [email protected] or (727) 893-8330. Follow @kmcgrory.