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Gragg v. Department of Social & Health Services

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

May 15, 2015

DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL & HEALTH SERVICES, an agency of the State of Washington and NICOLE REED and JOHN DOE REED, and their marital community, Defendants.


RONALD B. LEIGHTON, District Judge.

This matter is before the court on competing motions for summary judgment: Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 31) and Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Dkt. 27). The Court has reviewed all materials filed for and against said motions. Oral argument occurred on May 5, 2015.

For the following reasons, the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 31) is GRANTED and the Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Dkt. 27) is DENIED.


The undisputed facts as represented to the Court are as follows:

Defendant Reed is currently employed by the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) as a Social and Program Health Consultant in the Division of Children and Family Services. Reed has been employed by DSHS since March 2008. In April of 2010, Reed was a Court Services Social Worker, which is a position responsible for preparing dependency petitions, filing court papers, serving parties, and attending court hearings.

Laura and John Gragg are the parents of C.G. C.G. was born prematurely on September 6, 2009. Due to C.G.'s premature birth, he developed various health problems, including chronic lung disease. He underwent a tracheotomy in which an opening was made in his windpipe and a cuffed tube was placed within. C.G. also had a gastrostomy tube (G tube) inserted into his stomach to deliver food directly into the stomach.

C.G. was discharged from the hospital on March 23, 2010. Upon discharge, Mary Bridge staff instructed the parents to suction C.G.'s trach tube to a depth of 11 cm. The correct depth to suction a trach tube with a cuff was 14.5 cm. At 11 cm the suctioning was not deep enough to clear the entire passage.

With these wrong instructions, C.G. immediately began to have problems. The day after discharge, he vomited large amounts of his food. C.G. was on a Neocate formula diet at the time. At discharge, the doctors' recommendations were Neocate or dairy and soy free breast milk. Laura had been dairy and soy free, so they began to experiment with breast milk to see if it would help the vomiting issue. The doctor at Mary Bridge recommended that Laura continue with the Neocate feedings and not switch to breast milk.

On March 30, 2010, C.G. aspirated and was transported to Mary Bridge emergency room. He could not breathe. He became bradycardia, turned blue, and he suffered cardiac arrest requiring CPR. C.G. was readmitted to the Mary Bridge Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.

The Pediatric Intensivist, on April 2, 2010 in a hospital note, blamed the parents for ignoring medical advice causing a life threatening event. The doctor advised surgery to insert a GJ tube to avoid further aspiration and another cardiac event. The parents refused. The Pediatric Intensivist notified CPS and requested a court order for the procedure. Mr. Gragg stated his intention to transfer C.G. to Children's Hospital for a second opinion. The doctor advised the parents of their right to transfer C.G. and that they would need to identify a doctor willing to transfer the patient and that their insurance company would likely need to pay for the ambulance transfer.

The social worker at Mary Bridge contacted CPS (Angie O'Neil) regarding the parents' intent to transfer to Children's in Seattle for a second opinion and that a medical team would request that CPS place the patient on hold if the parents intended to discharge C.G. to the home.

On April 6, 2010, Reed prepared a dependency petition to file with the Juvenile Court. The dependency petition included the allegations that were received in the CPS referral from the hospital. In addition, prior to the filing of the petition, Reed had learned that Mary Bridge had placed C.G. on a medical hold and that the hospital had determined the parents were feeding C.G. breast milk instead of formula as recommended by the hospital. Reed did not make mention of the second opinion request in the petition.

On April 6, 2010, a shelter care hearing was held and Reed attended. At that hearing the Assistant Attorney General assigned to represent the Department in this case, Barbara Bailey, advised the Court that DSHS was aware there had been discussions regarding the fact that the parents were seeking a second opinion. There was also discussion regarding how to get C.G. to the appropriate second opinion because at the time of the hearing, C.G. was still hospitalized at Mary Bridge. At the time of this hearing C.G. was still on a ...

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