VALLEY FIRM SUED IN BABY SWITCHING.
A San Fernando-based maker of hospital identification bands has been sucked into a highly publicized baby-switching incident at the University of Virginia hospital.
Precision Dynamics Corp. is being sued by Paula Johnson, the mother of one of the babies, who claims that the company's Veri-Color identification bands' defective design allowed them to slip off her daughter and another child, leading to the inadvertent switch about four years ago.
``The heart of the suit is the product put out by Precision Dynamics and the problems with it,'' said Daniel Zohar, Johnson's Los Angeles-based attorney. ``The main purpose of this product is to enable people to identify their babies, and if the band can slip off and is defectively made so it can slip off easily, it can't achieve its purpose.''
Officials at Precision Dynamics say the incident stemmed not from a design flaw in their product, but from human error at the hospital.
Company officials say a September 1998 report on the incident from the Virginia Department of Health and Human Services blamed hospital employees for not following procedures such as matching indentification numbers on the babies' and mothers' bracelets, or adjusting the bracelets when the babies lost weight, as babies normally do over their first 48 hours.
Precision Dynamics has been making the Veri-Color band - its most popular design - since the late 1960s, said Nicholas C. Curtin, the company's vice president of sales and marketing.
The company has never received ``complaints as to the design being related to a mix-up of babies,'' he said.
``There's no indication that this band design would contribute to this unfortunate accident,'' Curtin said. ``It is the University of Virginia that did not follow through on common procedures in the maternity care area.''
The eight-page complaint, filed Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, does not set any monetary damages. According to Zohar, in California a plaintiff cannot state the amount of damages sought in a personal injury lawsuit.
``We certainly are seeking monetary damages, though,'' he said, adding that an amount will be set as the case progresses.
Precision Dynamics has yet to be formally served with the suit.
Last summer, Johnson discovered through a DNA test that Callie Marie Conley, the child she had been raising for nearly four years, was not her biological daughter.
It was later discovered that Callie had been inadvertently switched with another child who at the time was being raised as Rebecca Grace Chittum. Rebecca was being raised by two sets of grandparents after the couple who thought they were the child's parents were killed in a car accident.
In May, Johnson filed a $31 million lawsuit against the state of Virginia, the hospital and its staff claiming negligence and fraud. She also has sued for custody of Rebecca and wants to legally adopt Callie.