Suit Doctors Flawed Report of Child Abuse Shattered Family


South Carolina Lawyers Weekly

July 5, 2106

By: Phillip Bantz 

X-rays revealing fractured bones in 5-week-old twins spurred a hospital pediatrician to report the babies’ parents to the South Carolina Department of Social Services and Richland County Sheriff’s Department for suspected child abuse.

The doctor’s report set in motion a bureaucratic thresher that ripped apart Michael and Heather Livingston’s family: The couple’s twins and 9-year-old daughter were placed in foster care after Michael Livingston, a military veteran and medical worker, was coerced into confessing to child abuse and barred from seeing his family for nearly three years, during which time he slept on a friend’s couch.

But if Dr. Susan Luberoff, who evaluated the twins at the Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital in Columbia in 2013, had investigated further, rather than relying solely on the X-ray images, she could have discovered that the twins and Heather Livingston had a congenital form of brittle bone syndrome known as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, according to an attorney for the Livingston’s, Eric Bland of Bland Richter in Columbia.

Both twins had fractured ribs and one had a skull fracture — injuries that Bland argues occurred during birth. He said the boys had no bruising or other external evidence of trauma, and their sister, who was not diagnosed with EDS, also showed no signs of abuse.

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