Mother claims hospital error kept her from newborn daughter

October 8, 2007

New Jersey woman sues hospital for drug error that led state to take away newborn daughter.

EMS technicians weren't so sure, either. They rushed Tattoli to Saint Clare's Hospital in Sussex Borough, N.J.-a tiny 41-bed facility with no maternity department-that is less than two miles from her home. There, she labored for seven hours before giving birth to a 7-lb., 7-oz. baby girl.

Within 24 hours of the Nov. 4, 2005, delivery, both Tattoli and her daughter, Annalyse Elizabeth Claire, were transferred to the Denville, N.J., campus of Saint Clare's Hospital, one that is better equipped to handle newborns and their mothers. Tattoli, however, didn't get much time to forge a bond with her new daughter. Three days after Tattoli gave birth, the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) took her daughter away from her upon learning that traces of the powerful painkiller Percocet (oxycodone HCl/acetaminophen, USP) had been found in the infant's urine.

"The medical chart created by defendants either was not transferred to Saint Clare's Denville hospital or was not reviewed at Saint Clare's Denville hospital, and, as a result, plaintiff was separated from her newborn daughter," states the lawsuit, filed last month in state Superior Court in Morristown, N.J.

The lawsuit claims Tattoli's close to five-month separation from her daughter could have been avoided if the staff at Saint Clare's in Sussex Borough had clearly conveyed her medical history to their colleagues in Denville. The process, known as medication reconciliation, is conducted to avoid medication errors such as omissions, duplications, improper dosing, or drug interactions.

About half of all medication errors that occur in hospitals and up to 20% of adverse drug events can be attributed to poor medication reconciliation practices and procedures, according to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, a not-for-profit organization in Cambridge, Mass.

"A reasonable medical facility within the state of New Jersey would have transferred plaintiff's medical chart to the second facility, reviewed it, and would have detected and learned that plaintiff had been administered Percocet," the lawsuit states.

Tattoli was given Percocet at Saint Clare's Sussex campus, according to the lawsuit. She was in labor for about seven hours before delivering Annalyse, and nursed the baby before the infant was transferred to the hospital's Denville campus. Tattoli was transferred to Denville late in the evening of Nov. 4, and nursed the baby a second time.

Between the birth and the Nov. 6, 2005, discharge of Tattoli, tests performed on the baby revealed the presence of drugs in her urine. Rather than discuss the results of those tests with Tattoli, hospital staff contacted DYFS and the state removed Annalyse from her mother's care, the lawsuit charges. The two were separated from Nov. 7, 2005, until March 28, 2006.

A spokesman for Saint Clare's Health Services did not return a call seeking comment.

The lawsuit does not specify the tests that were performed on Annalyse after her birth or the factors that led Saint Clare's to conduct a drug screening on her.

Tattoli's attorney, Michael A. Spero of Trenton, said neither DYFS nor the hospital discussed the dose of Percocet she was given while she was in labor.

The lawsuit accuses Saint Clare's of negligence, saying nurses could have determined the cause of drugs in Tattoli's daughter by simply reviewing her medical chart.