Judge OKs suit over shooting | TheUnion.com

Judge OKs suit over shooting

A lawsuit filed by parents of a receptionist killed in last year’s shooting at the county’s Behavioral Health Department can go forward, according to a judge’s ruling.

An attorney representing a handful of county employees and contractors – defendants in the case – had asked that a case filed by Amanda and Nick Wilcox, parents of slain receptionist Laura Wilcox, be dismissed on legal grounds.

The Wilcoxes and other plaintiffs can continue the case, but they have to file an amended complaint, according to a ruling by Nevada County Superior Court Judge Carl Bryan.

Bryan overruled most of the defense objections, but did agree that the case had to comply with the California Tort Claims Act.

The Wilcoxes and Judith Edzards, a former county employee shot in the Jan 10 attack, and Edzards’ husband, Darrel Edzards, are suing Nevada County; George Heitzman, the alleged gunman’s therapist; Phyllis Murdock, director of the county Human Services Agency; Benjamin Lopez, a Behavioral Health Services contractor; and Scott Harlan Thorpe, the accused gunman, who was a county Department of Behavioral Health Services client suffering from a paranoid psychosis and possible schizophrenia, court records show.

Kathleen Williams, a Sacramento attorney representing defendants in the case, said she would just wait for an amended pleading in the case.

Steven Spiller and Allan Haley, area attorneys representing the Wilcoxes, could not be reached for comment.

Williams said she would file a similar motion, called a demurrer, in response to a second lawsuit filed last week by plaintiffs Pamela Chase and Yvonne O’Keefe, former Behavioral Health workers who say they were traumatized by the attack.

That suit in Nevada County Superior Court alleges that defendants Murdock, Lopez, Heitzman and Robert Gillespie should have warned Chase and O’Keefe because Thorpe made threats prior to the Jan. 10 shootings, according to court records.

Under a guiding California Supreme Court decision, the Tarasoff case, psychiatrists have a duty to warn people in the way of harm if they know a patient has made threats of harm against others, said Stephen Munkelt, a Nevada City attorney representing Chase and O’Keefe.

Both groups of plaintiffs have filed two separate appeals of a federal case dismissed earlier this year by a Sacramento judge in the Eastern District of California.

Those cases take a different legal tack, claiming the civil rights of Wilcox, Edzards, Chase and O’Keefe were violated because the county failed to protect them.

It could take as long as two years for an appeals court hearing on the cases, said Munkelt.

The cases

Two cases against the county, employees and Scott Thorpe were filed in Nevada County Superior Court on April 18 and July 19.

Two civil-rights violation appeals for victims were filed with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on April 16 and Wednesday.

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