Poppy seeds lead to failed drug test, $40K settlement.


Byline: Bill Cresenzo

Elaine Benes, from the sitcom "Seinfeld," could have related to one plaintiff's unusual plight.

A former military officer whose job offer to work as a chaplain at a North Carolina hospital was revoked after she ate a poppy seed muffin on the morning of a drug test has settled a lawsuit against a medical review officer who claimed she had tested positive for morphine, her attorney said.

Leonard Jernigan of Raleigh reports that his client, a 61-year-old woman, was hired for a two-year, part-time position at the medical center, whose name was withheld pursuant to a confidentiality agreement. A week after she took the drug test, a drug screening company informed her that she had tested positive for morphine with a level of 4,818 nanograms per milliliter.

"She was a retired Army captain and had taken numerous drug screens and had never failed a test," Jernigan said, adding that his client was "shocked" by the results.

The woman had eaten a poppy seed muffin the morning of the drug test and learned that the muffin could have caused a positive result. (The very same thing happened to Elaine's character in a famous 1996 episode of "Seinfeld.") Still also had the receipt for the muffin, Jernigan said.

The client was allowed to contact the independent medical review officer who had deemed her test positive. Jernigan said the MRO "dismissed" the woman's poppy seed claim.

"When she asked what standards he used to make his determination, he said he used standards he had developed over the years," Jernigan said. "He then reported the test as positive to the hospital, and the job offer was immediately revoked."

The woman submitted a letter to the MRO and to the hospital from a physician who had reviewed thousands of similar drug screens, Jernigan said. The physician said the federal cutoff level was 15,000 ng/mL and that her screen should have been reported as negative.

The MRO sent a letter to the hospital defending his work and challenging the credibility of the plaintiff. He cited numerous medical...

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