Deal reached in negligence suit Doctor accused in child's death reportedly will pay more than $100,000

June 26, 1992|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer Staff writer John Rivera contributed to this article

A Davidsonville doctor accused of negligence in the death of a 9-year-old girl five years ago has reached a settlement agreement with the child's parents, court documents say.

The terms and conditions of the agreement are confidential, but a source involved in the case, who asked to remain anonymous, confirmed the amount exceeded $100,000.

Attorney Gary I. Strausberg, who represents the girl's parents, said the doctor, Robert G. Graw Jr., did not admit guilt as part of the agreement, which has yet to be signed.

Graw said yesterday he is not aware of any settlement. "I don't know much about that," he said. "It was handled between the attorneys."

The doctor said he last heard that the parents dropped their suit "because they couldn't bring enough evidence to court."

But the court file contains a letter from Strausberg, dated June 17, addressed to the filing office in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court. The letter says a settlement has been reached, with the terms of the agreement forthcoming.

Graw's attorney, Roy B. Cowdrey Jr., refused to comment yesterday evening.

A second trial in the case was to begin Monday. The first trial in October ended with a deadlocked jury -- 11 jurors siding with the parents, one holding out for the doctor.

Graw was accused of negligence in his care of Catherine "Katie" Gillespie, who died from a brain hemorrhage eight hours after arriving at Johns Hopkins Hospital on Nov. 2, 1987.

The girl, who lived in Severn, was diagnosed with a blood disorder called idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura. The malady is characterized by an abnormally small number of platelets, the part of the blood responsible for clotting.

Katie's parents, who are divorced, charged in their suit that Graw, a specialist in pediatric hematology, failed to hospitalize the girl or take other reasonable steps that could have prevented her death, including ignoring severe bleeding.

The parents also accused Graw of failing to advise them to watch for signs of a headache, which suggests the onset of a hemorrhage. The girl died of a brain hemorrhage the day after complaining of a headache.

Graw's attorneys argued that the girl's bleeding wasn't severe enough on the two days that he saw her to warrant hospitalization.

And since hospitalization wasn't necessary, Graw took appropriate action in sending the girl home and prescribing steroids, his attorneys said.

After a Circuit Court judge dismissed the jury in the first trial, Katie's mother, Cynthia Gillespie Kirby, said she would not rest until she won in front of a jury. "I will continue to grieve until 12 people stand up and tell me what this doctor did was wrong." She and her former husband were seeking $400,000.

Kirby could not be reached for comment yesterday. But her attorney said the settlement satisfies his client.

"Finally, the doctor was willing to settle the case," Strausberg said, declining to discuss specifics. "The parents were not out for blood. They were out to get some recognition that a wrong was done."

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