An Orchard Park mother of three who was accused of poisoning her infant son during a contentious custody battle but was later cleared has sued the baby’s father, alleging that he added blood thinning medication and cleaning products to bottles of her breast milk and formula.
Kimberly Lawton, 37, filed the lawsuit Thursday in State Supreme Court in Buffalo against Thomas Meyers, of Bemus Point in Chautauqua County.
The suit, filed by attorney Steven M. Cohen of HoganWillig, says Meyers’ false allegations and actions against Lawton “were for the purpose of obtaining sole custody” of their child to avoid having to pay Lawton child support. The mother spent more than a week in jail and lost custody of the baby and her two other children; a grand jury later cleared her of the poisoning allegations.
The suit says the baby boy was born Nov. 14, 2012, and that Lawton told Meyers she would be seeking child support payments from him, since they were no longer together.
On Jan. 15, 2013, Meyers filed a petition in Erie County Family Court for sole custody of the baby, but his request was denied.
About a month later, Lawton filed for sole custody and was awarded a temporary order of residence, and Meyers was granted limited visitation. Lawton also petitioned for child support from Meyers who asserted in Family Court that his annual income totaled $120,000, according to the lawsuit.
In March 2013, Meyers sent bottles of breast milk and formula that Lawton had given him for the baby’s use during visitation to Avomeen Analytical Services, a chemical analysis laboratory in Michigan, for testing. But before sending the bottles to Avomeen, the suit says, Meyers added foreign substances to the bottles, including a blood thinning medication and cleaning products.
Around April 3, 2013, the suit says, Avomeen produced an analysis of the bottles that “identified compounds including a blood thinning pharmaceutical, a chlorinated aliphatic, and a number of aldehydes, indicating the suspect formula is adulterated.”
Meyers cited that analysis in filing a claim with Child Protective Services against Lawton for allegedly poisoning their baby. At about 9:30 p.m. April 3, 2013, CPS workers arrived at Lawton’s home to notify her of the claim and to inspect her residence.
The next day, the suit says, Lawton took her baby to the pediatrician and then to Women & Children’s Hospital, where he was examined, tested and found not to be suffering from any form of poisoning. On that same day, Meyers filed a criminal complaint with the Orchard Park Police Department, accusing Lawton of poisoning the baby.
On April 5, 2013, Meyers went to Lawton’s home to obtain more bottles of breast milk and formula for the baby, the suit says, but instead he gave the bottles to an Orchard Park police officer in an undercover vehicle for analysis as part of the police investigation into his complaint.
The suit says the bottles were in Meyers’ possession, outside the view and/or supervision of police, for a sufficient period of time to allow Meyers and/or an associate to add foreign substances to the bottles.
Three days later, Meyers filed a petition in Family Court seeking temporary custody of his son based on his claim that Lawton had poisoned the baby.
On April 10, 2013, the court issued Meyers a temporary order of custody and visitation, allowing Lawton only limited and supervised visits with the baby.
About a month later, the suit says, Michael Murphy, the father of Lawton’s two oldest children, sought and received custody of the children, based on Meyers’ poisoning claim against Lawton.
Last September, the New York State Office of Children and Family Services informed Lawton that the CPS investigation into the poisoning claim found the allegations to be unfounded.
Meanwhile, the suit says, the Orchard Park Police Department had sent the bottles that Meyers turned over to police on April 5, 2013, to the New York State Police Forensic Investigation Center in Albany.
The center sent a trace evidence report dated Oct. 1, 2013, to the Orchard Park police chief, indicating that the bottles of breast milk and formula contained ethanol (alcohol).
Police arrested Lawton Oct. 17, 2013, at her residence on charges of attempted second-degree assault and endangering the welfare of a child. She remained in custody until Oct. 25, 2013, when she posted $50,000 bail.
In March, the Erie County District Attorney’s Office presented the case to a grand jury, which dismissed the charges against Lawton, based on “insignificant amounts” of ethanol found in the bottles – the same amounts found occurring naturally in some bottled fruit juices.
The suit alleges that Meyers’ false claims and actions resulted in Lawton’s loss of custody of her three children as well as her spending more than a week in custody, spending money on attorneys’ fees for Family Court and criminal proceedings and damage to her reputation and business. The suit seeks an unspecified amount of compensation for the damages.
Lawton also filed a petition July 17 for a court order allowing her to file a late notice of claim against the Town of Orchard Park and the Police Department.
Meyers’ attorney, Donna L. Haslinger, could not be reached to comment.