Family of Tulane department chair sues New Orleans over drowning death

Alejandro de los Rios Jun. 16, 2010, 10:24am


Family of Tulane department chair sues New Orleans over drowning death

The family of Dr. Krishna Agrawal, the chairman of Tulane University's pharmacology department, is suing the city of New Orleans after Agrawal drowned in a canal he had unwittingly drove into during heavy rain.

New Orleans attorney Soren Gisleson filed the petition for damages on June 14 on behalf of Mani Agrawal, Sunil Agrawal, Lina Agrawal Young and Nira Agrawal.

The suit claims that on Dec. 12, 2009, Dr. Agrawal was driving his car with his wife, Mani Agrawal, as a passenger in their Mercedes-Benz sedan. Dr. Agrawal was driving down a road that he did not know ended in a canal "due to the improper signage, signalization, and lack of a traffic barrier being placed at the end of the roadway" and subsequently drove into the canal.

Dr. Argrawal was able to free himself and his wife from the submerging vehicle, according to the suit, but "Mrs. Agrawal saw her husband disappear under the water line." Dr. Argrawal's body was found more than 12-hours later, face-down in the water of Donner Canal.

The suit alleges that the city of New Orleans is liable for "failing to replace signs which had been removed, lost, vandalized or destroyed" and "failure to use adequate, sufficient, and appropriate traffic barriers at the end of the Marr Avenue roadway," among other charges.

According to a report published Dec. 14, 2009 in the Times-Picayune, Dr. Agrawal, 72, received his Ph.D. in 1965 from the University of Florida in Gainsville in pharmaceutical chemistry and pharmacology. He specialized in anti-HIV drugs and the development of drugs to battle prostate and breast cancers. He became a tenured professor at Tulane in 1981 and named chair of the pharmacology department in 1999.

The Times-Picayune report describes the roadway where Dr. Agrawal drove into the canal as a "paved and unmarked blacktop [that] continues toward the canal, ending just feet short of a 10-foot drop into the water. No barricades, warnings or stop signs are posted, and few street lights are nearby." It goes on to state that neighbors "have complained about the lack of signage or protection for years."

Judge Ethel Julien will be overseeing the case.

Orleans Parish Case 2010-06014

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