Wrongful death lawsuit against Caldwell Memorial Hospital settled

Patient died due to negligence, suit claims
Jan. 24, 2014 @ 08:30 AM

A settlement has been reached between Caldwell Memorial Hospital and the estate of a woman who died, her family contends, because of treatment she received.

Mary Kathleen Coffey Gragg, 64, of Collettsville was brought to the hospital by ambulance three times from Oct. 17, 2009, to Jan. 17, 2010, because of symptoms including weakness and difficulty walking. She was known to already be suffering from heart valve disease, but doctors did not evaluate her for possible infection of the aortic valve, the lawsuit said. In December 2009, despite urine tests indicating she had an infection, she was discharged with no medication for her infection, the suit said.

After being admitted to the hospital Jan. 17, 2010, doctors found she had a bacterial infection but could not identify where it was, and her condition rapidly worsened, and she was transferred to the intensive care unit Jan. 22, the lawsuit said; on Jan. 23 she had a complete heart blockage and a stroke caused by a blood clot traveling to her brain. Gragg's family was told that she needed a pacemaker so she could be taken to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, but the pacemaker was not installed correctly and could not function, the suit said.

Gragg died at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center on Jan. 28, 2010.

The lawsuit, filed Jan. 26, 2012, also said Dr. Ramesh Krishnaraj failed to notify Gragg's caregiver, daughter Bertha Todd, that his license had been suspended for 90 days by the N.C. Medical Board earlier in 2009 for ordering drug therapy improperly for two patients, one of whom died.

Jean Brinkley, the medical board's director of public affairs, said Wednesday that Krishnaraj's medical license was suspended for two years, beginning June 24, 2009, but that the suspension was stayed after Sept. 28, meaning he could continue to practice medicine after that date as long as he completed a course on prescriptions. Krishnaraj still has a valid license to practice.

No information about the amount of the settlement was available. The lawsuit sought damages of more than $10,000 for pain and suffering, funeral and medical expenses, and loss of potential income, but in such lawsuits that amount usually is listed only to establish that the suit should be heard in Superior Court rather than District Court.

The suit was scheduled to be dismissed on Jan. 21 as a result of the settlement, but was not heard in Caldwell Superior Court. The parties have until Jan. 31 to file for a dismissal, said Monteen German, Caldwell Superior Court trial coordinator.

Allen Tarleton, the hospital's attorney, declined to comment. James Roan III, the lawyer for Gragg's estate, could not be reached.