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Settlement with lab in misdiagnosed poisoning

ST. LOUIS -- A woman convicted of murdering her 5-month-old son then cleared of the charge when tests proved he died from a rare medical condition has settled a civil suit against a laboratory that failed to detect the problem.

Patricia Stallings and her husband, David, said Tuesday they agreed to the settlement with SmithKline Beecham Clinical Laboratories.

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The case was scheduled to go to trial Monday in St. Louis Circuit Court.

Terms of the settlement were not released.

The case began when the couple's infant son, Ryan, died in 1989 while the family was living in Hillsboro, about 40 miles southwest of St. Louis.

Authorities believed the baby was poisoned with anti-freeze. The mother was convicted of murder in 1991 and sentenced to life in prison.

But medical experts later determined Ryan had died from a rare disease called methylmalonic acidemia, which causes the body to manufacture a chemical similar to an ingredient in anti-freeze. The discovery was made after the couple's second son, David Stallings Jr., was born with the same disorder following his mother's conviction.

Patricia Stallings was granted a new trial in 1991 and authorities dropped all charges against her. She and her husband, who now live in St. Louis County, filed the civil lawsuit last year against SmithKline, St. Louis University Medical Center, Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital and three physicians. The other defendants settled out of court last year.

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The couple's suit alleged that the doctors and SmithKline had misdiagnosed Ryan's ailment. Patricia Stallings, now 28, said she hopes that the settlement with SmithKline means she never has to enter a courtroom again.

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