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Case of baby who died in Customs heads to trial after failure to settle


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POSTED: Sunday, November 08, 2009

QUESTION: Whatever happened to the case involving the death of a baby brought from American Samoa to Honolulu by his mother for medical treatment who was held up at the airport by U.S. Customs and Border Protection?

ANSWER: The baby's mother, Luaipou Futi, filed a lawsuit in federal court in Honolulu against the United States government, alleging wrongful death.

A settlement conference held Tuesday did not succeed, and the case is set for trial before U.S. District Judge Michael Seabright on April 13.

Futi and her 2-week-old son, Michael Tony Futi, traveled to Honolulu with a nurse from Pago Pago, American Samoa, on Feb. 8, 2008. The baby was born with a heart defect at LBJ Tropical Medical Center in Pago Pago, and the hospital received approval from U.S. Customs for an emergency visa waiver for his mother and a nurse to bring him to Honolulu for medical treatment, according to the lawsuit.

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The trio were the first passengers off the plane at Honolulu Airport, and a car was waiting to take them to Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children. Instead, they were detained in a locked room by U.S. Customs officials who had concerns over the mother's paperwork. The nurse asked if she and the baby could be released to the hospital but was turned down.

During the flight, the nurse checked Michael's oxygen levels every 15 minutes and administered oxygen as needed, an autopsy report showed. The baby developed breathing problems while locked in the airport room, and his nurse pounded on the door, frantically pleading with officials to call 911, but was told to be quiet, according to the suit.

The infant was later taken by ambulance to Kaiser Permanente Moanalua Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. The Honolulu medical examiner concluded that Michael Futi died because he failed to receive required oxygen.