"Paula Johnson, the Stafford woman whose baby girl was switched at birth at the University of Virginia Medical Center
six years ago, agreed yesterday to accept $2.3 million from the state for herself, and the child she is raising.
The settlement, which came a day before the Virginia Supreme Court was to rule on whether Johnson's $31 million lawsuit
should proceed, ends her two-year quest for damages from the hospital and the state. Johnson's lawsuit had been dismissed
by a Stafford County judge in February 2000.
'Paula is very relieved that it's over,' said Kenneth Mergenthal, one of her attorneys, who signed the order to dismiss
the lawsuit yesterday. 'She's happy that she can start to put her life back in order.'
Johnson declined to comment yesterday when reached through her office at a development company in Fairfax.
Under the terms of the settlement, Johnson will receive a $475,000 cash payment and $150,000 to pay attorneys' fees. Callie,
the 6-year-old girl she has been raising since birth, will get $1.73 million, paid over the next 24 years.
Callie will have $200,000 placed in a trust immediately. When she turns 18, she will receive $50,000 a year for four years,
then $75,000 a year for another three. When she turns 25, she will receive $350,000, and when she turns 30, she will get a
final payment of $750,000.
Johnson rejected a similar settlement in February 1999 in which Johnson would have received $200,000.
David Botkins, a spokesman for Virginia Attorney General Mark L. Earley, said that state officials were pleased that the
suit against the hospital was over.
'It has been our goal from the beginning to provide financial assistance to these young children and their families,' Botkins
Hospital officials discovered in July 1998 that Johnson's baby girl had been given to a young couple from Buena Vista,
Va., within days of her birth in 1995. The couple's baby had been given to Johnson, who lived outside Charlottesville at the
The Buena Vista couple, Kevin Chittum and Whitney Rogers, died in a car crash July 4, 1998, on Interstate 81, before learning
of the switch.
Since then, the families in Buena Vista have battled with Johnson and with each other over custody and visitation arrangements
in the bizarre case, which grabbed international media attention.
For the hospital and the state, the settlement ends almost three years of legal battles fought on several fronts. In February
1999, the state reached a similar settlement with the grandparents raising Johnson's biological child, Rebecca, in Beuna Vista.
In that settlement, the grandparents split a $125,000 cash payment.
Yesterday's agreement between Johnson and the state does not end the legal saga, however.
Johnson still has a $24 million lawsuit pending against Precision Dynamics, the California manufacturer of the hospital identification bracelets that the babies wore after their births. A state police
investigation in November 1998 concluded that the switch may have occurred when both babies' ID bands fell off.
Lou Phelps, a spokesman for Precision Dynamics, said yesterday that 'in settling with the Commonwealth of Virginia, Ms.
Johnson has reached settlement with the entity that we believe is solely responsible for this tragic incident.'
The settlement also does not end the wrangling over custody of the girls. A judge in Buena Vista is overseeing an ongoing
dispute between Johnson and the grandparents over visitation and custody arrangements.
'The situation in Buena Vista is just not workable,' Mergenthal said yesterday.
In addition, Carlton Conley, Johnson's ex-boyfriend and Rebecca's father, has filed for visitation with Callie and has
filed a $7 million lawsuit against the state, which is pending.
Next month, Conley is expected to marry Pam Mitofsky, Callie's aunt in Buena Vista" (Michael D. Shear, The Washington
Post, April 20, 2001).
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