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BOY GETS $28.7 MILLION IN AIDS LAWSUIT

A 5-year-old boy who contracted AIDS from a blood transfusion when he was 2 days old has been awarded $28.7 million, believed to be the largest damage award in AIDS litigation in the United States.

A Maricopa County Superior Court jury Friday awarded the damages to Alex Edwards, of Mesa.The damages were assessed against Dr. Abraham Kuruvilla and his clinic, Neonatology Associates Ltd.

Kuruvilla's attorney, Duane Olson, called the verdict "worse than I ever could have dreamed" and said he would appeal.

A suit filed on behalf of the boy claimed he contracted acquired immune deficiency syndrome from a blood transfusion March 13, 1985, two days after his birth.

The suit claimed Kuruvilla should have obtained consent from the parents before ordering the transfusion and should have pursued alternative treatments for the baby's respiratory problems.

Alex tested positive for the antibody of the AIDS virus in early 1987 after health officials determined that United Blood Services of Arizona - source of the blood given Alex - had received blood from an infected donor.

The nine-member jury awarded $26.7 million to Alex and $1 million to his parents for the loss of the boy's companionship and the emotional distress of having a child suffering from AIDS.

In closing arguments, Olson suggested that $2.5 million would be a reasonable award, but jury foreman Ray Howell said jurors rejected that immediately as inadequate.

Howell said jurors set the $26.7 million figure for Alex by setting a life expectancy of 40 years and giving him $600,000 for each year, with considerations for inflation.

Two defendants - Blood Systems Inc., parent company of United Blood Services of Arizona, and Samaritan Health Services, operator of Desert Samaritan Hospital where Alex received the transfusion - settled out of court earlier.