Jury Awards Williamson $500,000 in Malpractice Suit
Posted September 20, 1998
HILLSBOROUGH — An Orange County jury has awarded Wendell Williamson $500,000 in a medical malpractice suit against his former doctor. The jury decided Dr. Myron Liptzin was negligent in his treatment of Wendell Williamson, a former UNC law student who killed two people during a 1995 shooting rampage in Chapel Hill.
Liptzin diagnosed Williamson as "paranoid schizophrenic" prior to the incident. Williamson's lawyers, who agree with the diagnosis, argued Liptzin did not continue the necessary treatments for his patient. The jury agreed.
"It did surprise me that the jury came back with the amount of the verdict that they did," said Joe Poe, attorney for the family of Kevin Reichardt, shot to death during Williamson's rampage.
Poe said the Reichardt family agrees with the jury's finding that Dr. Liptzin was negligent in his failure to provide the care that Wendell Williamson needed.
But Poe added, "They have very mixed feelings and are frustrated to some extent with the amount the jury awarded Wendell Williamson. In some ways, it seems to them that Mr. Williamson is being rewarded for the murder of their son."
"I'm angry. I think it was a foolish decision," said Katherine Hux, executive director for the North Carolina Psychiatric Association. The jury is wrong to hold the doctor responsible, she says. Williamson was responsible for his own actions.
"He decided not to take his medication. It is totally his responsibility. He was advised to seek care, and he chose not to do it," Hux said.
Dr. Liptzin said Monday night that he was shocked by the decision, but did not say whether he plans to appeal. ,Julie Moos