Supreme court allows kids of killer to sue medical providers

ASHLEY FRANSCELL/Daily Herald David Ragsdale pleaded guilty to aggravated murder for killing his wife Kristy in January 2008 during a hearing Wednesday, November 26, 2008 in the Fourth District Court in Provo.

A medical malpractice lawsuit has been filed on behalf of David Ragsdale's sons against a nurse practitioner and others who prescribed anti-depressants and mood-altering drugs to Ragsdale.

The lawsuit was filed Monday by attorneys Allen Young and Tyler Young for attorney William Jeffs, who is the guardian ad litem for Carter and Brandon Ragsdale. Named in the suit are Pioneer Comprehensive Medical Clinic, Dr. Hugo Rodier and nurse practitioner Trina West, according to court documents.

Ragsdale pleaded guilty in November 2008 to aggravated murder for gunning down his wife, Kristy, in a Lehi church parking lot and was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison with the possibility of parole. Before his guilty plea, Ragsdale's sister, Tamara, said Ragsdale was taking seven medications, including Paxil, Doxepin, Ritalin, Provigil and two forms of testosterone at the time of the murder. She said the negative side effects he suffered from the drugs were not properly monitored by the nurse practitioner who prescribed them, and the interactions chemically altered his brain.

Prosecutor Craig Johnson, who handled Ragsdale's criminal case, said attorneys consulted at length with police and experts about any "causation issues" from medications and how they might have mitigated the intent to kill in the case. In the end, he said, prosecutors felt there was no validity to the claim that the medications impaired Ragsdale's ability to form criminal intent. If there was any reasonable doubt that the medications played a role, prosecutors would have explored manslaughter charges, he said.

The standard of proof in a civil case is "preponderance of evidence," rather than "reasonable doubt," Johnson said, essentially meaning attorneys need to make the claim that it is more likely than not that the medications made a difference.

The Utah County Attorney's Office's role in the case ended when Ragsdale was sent to prison, Johnson said. However, he said he hopes Kristy Ragsdale's family will soon be able to move on with their lives and focus on the life Kristy led.

"Hopefully for the sake of Mr. Ragsdale's children and his mother-in-law, Ann Palizzi, they can settle this soon," he said.

A wrongful death suit was filed against David Ragsdale on behalf of his sons in 2008 and was settled for $1 million.

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