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Alum-feeding lawsuit settled for $81,000

| Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011

The parents of eight Fayette County children who alleged former employees of a YMCA Child Development Center gave the children a toxic substance as punishment for misbehaving settled a civil lawsuit for $81,000.

Minus attorneys' fees, each of the plaintiffs was awarded amounts ranging between $4,000 and $14,000, according to documents filed in the case. The money has been placed into certificates of deposit for the children.

The seven families claimed five former employees of the South Connellsville center in 2009 gave alum to eight children who were between the ages of 3 to 6 at the time. The parents described instances in which their children were sick and vomiting, with flulike symptoms.

Alum is an odorless white crystal or powder used in baking powder, as a pickling salt, as a fire retardant and in antiperspirant. Ingesting it can cause abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

The lawsuit stated that an assistant supervisor at the facility informed a parent about the incident.

Alan H. Perer, a Pittsburgh attorney for the families, submitted a motion Dec. 22 requesting that the Fayette County prothonotary's office "settle and discontinue" the case.

The motion contained no information regarding the settlement, but the amounts awarded to each family were revealed in several "proof of deposit" documents that Perer filed with the courts.

According to the filings, the settlement amounts, after attorneys' fees were deducted, were: $14,000 to Shannon Partridge as legal guardian of two of the children; $10,000 each to Amber Doppelheuer, and Brian and Janean Ansell as guardians of two of the children; $8,000 to Hillary Hamborsky as guardian of one child; and $4,000 each to the legal guardians of the remaining children, Ryan Timms, Jessica Harr and Rodney and Lori Humbertson.

The plaintiffs' attorneys, Swensen, Perer and Kontos of Pittsburgh, retained $27,000 in legal fees, according to the filings.

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