The widow of retired Army major William Franklin (Frank) Grubb Jr., one of four persons whose deaths prompted the court martial of Navy surgeon Donal M. Billig, filed a $5 million claim yesterday against the Defense Department to compensate her for her husband's death.

The claim filed by Lily Grubb, 67, of Lancaster, S.C., says that her husband died after "grossly negligent" surgery and medical care from government personnel at Bethesda Naval Hospital, including Billig. The compensation request, filed in the Defense Department's claims division in Alexandria, is split evenly between a claim for personal injury suffered by Grubb's husband and the loss she has suffered since his death on Aug. 8.

Billig, the former head of the heart and chest unit at Bethesda Naval Hospital, has been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter and 28 counts of dereliction of duty in connection with heart operations he performed there. Grubb's is the only claim filed by any of the parties notified by the Navy in late June of its action against Billig.

"Obviously, the Navy believes he was negligent or criminally negligent or they wouldn't have charged him," Grubb's attorney, William P. Harper Jr., said. Navy officials have indicated that it is not likely that they will dispute liability.

The Navy has six months to decide whether to settle the claim. If six months pass without a settlement, the claim is considered denied. The claimant can then sue the government through the federal courts.