Woman blinded in clinic stabbing gets $5.5 million

The Seattle Pi

October 8, 2009

A Seattle mental health provider has agreed to pay $6 million to settle two claims related to a vicious stabbing that left one worker blind, attorneys for the plaintiffs announced Thursday.

Just after 8 a.m. on July 17, 2006, a woman entered the Downtown Public Health Center and, without warning, set upon employee Maritza Dowe with a a butcher knife. The assailant, identified by prosecutors as Marilyn Ulicia Walker, stabbed Dowe repeatedly in the arms, torso and face, leaving her blind.

In a legal action following the attack, Dowe's attorneys Jack Connelly and Nathan Roberts argued that the non-profit mental health services provider charged with monitoring the attacker's care failed to do so. A second employee joined the suit, claiming the trauma of witnessing the attack damaged her psychologically.

Investigation following the attack revealed that Walker was a violent schizophrenic with a long history of bizarre behavior, the attorneys said in a statement. They alleged that Community Psychiatric Clinic -- Walker's care provider after her 2003 release from Western State Hospital -- failed to adequately treat her.

Walker, the attorneys said, had been sent to Western State in 2001 after she became psychotic and assaulted her roommate, attacked a police officer, and doused another man with gasoline in an attempt to set him on fire. Though charged, Walker has remained at Western State since the attack because of her mental illness.

Dowe's attorneys claimed Walker was placed on medication following her release from the mental institution, with instructions that she had to remain medicated to avoid engaging in violence. But, the attorneys said in a statement, staff and physicians at Community Psychiatric Clinic failed to review Walker's file, and actually lowered Walker's dosage of anti-psychotic medication.

The $6 million settlement will be paid by the clinic's insurance carrier, with $5.5 million going to Dowe to pay for her lost wages and ongoing medical and psychological needs, the attorneys said. A small portion of the settlement will be paid to Dowe's colleague, who has been unable to work due to post-traumatic stress.
 
By LEVI PULKKINEN
SEATTLEPI.COM STAFF