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Mom sues after infant's drug overdose death

By Associated Press
Published December 22, 2003

BARTOW - The mother of an infant who died after a baby sitter gave her a fatal dose of Benadryl has sued the sitter, the drug company that made the medicine and the pharmacy that allegedly sold it.

Three-month-old Grace Fields died two years ago this week. Her baby sitter, Paula Burcham, was sentenced to eight years in prison this summer for manslaughter.

Grace's mother, Tracy Fields, is suing Burcham; Pfizer Inc., the New York maker of Benadryl; the Perrigo Co., the Allegan, Mich. maker of generic versions of Benadryl; and Eckerd Corp., which Fields said sold Burcham the cough syrup she gave Grace.

The wrongful death and product liability lawsuit was filed earlier in state court this month and seeks damages of more than $15,000. Other defendants are Polk County, the Polk County Health Department and the state Department of Children & Families.

Burcham, 53, ran an unlicensed day care center out of her Lakeland home.

Prosecutors said Burcham never told paramedics working to save Grace she had poured three teaspoons of Benadryl into a bottle of breast milk she gave the infant. Burcham later admitted giving the baby the drug, but denied it was to control behavior.

The lawsuit charges the government agencies should have done more to regulate Burcham's day care center and that the drug makers and Clearwater-based Eckerd should have provided clearer warnings about Benadryl.

Pfizer spokesman Tom Sanford said the company does not recommend people give Benadryl to infants.

[Last modified December 22, 2003, 01:33:47]

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