January 18, 2010 - Hospital Faces Wrongful Death in Katrina Suit

The former top executive of a New Orleans hospital testified he was unaware of a pre-Katrina document suggesting the hospital generator might fail in a flood.

Larry Graham was testifying in a wrongful-death trial dating to his tenure as chief executive officer of Pendleton Memorial Methodist Hospital during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune reported Saturday.

Graham claimed he had not been informed by Cameron Barr, a hospital vice president, that a generator system could potentially flood with disastrous results, the newspaper said.

"That was not my responsibility, and I did not ask him those questions," Graham said.

But records show Barr wrote a 2002 document outlining his concerns.

"The first question is, 'Do we have generators placed to accommodate an emergency flood with 15 feet of water?' The answer to that question is 'no,'" the document read.

The system's failure is at the heart of a wrongful-death claim filed against Methodist and United Health Services, which took over the hospital in 2004, by the family of Althea LaCoste, who was on an electricity-dependent ventilator at the time of the flood, The Times-Picayune said.

She survived with manual breathing assistance from hospital staff but eventually died.

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