Lockheed: Eight lawsuits,
more than 50 plaintiffs

By By Suzanne Monk / managing editor
July 8, 2004
One year after a Lockheed Martin employee in Meridian opened fire on his co-workers, at least eight lawsuits have been filed against the aeronautical manufacturer.
All assert a common complaint: Lockheed's inattention to the threat posed by Doug Williams caused the shooting rampage that ended in the deaths of six people.
The plaintiffs allege that Williams had a long history of disciplinary problems at the plant. They say he had made threats against co-workers before the shootings especially black co-workers and had "acted out" in racially bigoted ways.
Lockheed managers, the lawsuits say, were forewarned of the possibility of violence and failed to protect their employees.
Here's a look at the eight lawsuits, filed in two courts, in reverse chronological order.
Lauderdale County Circuit Court
The most recent lawsuits are three filed in Lauderdale County Circuit Court. All name as defendants Lockheed Martin, plant managers Jack Johns and Steve Cobb, and Williams' estate.
No. 1: The first is a wrongful death complaint filed Tuesday by Jinnell Miller, the widow of the Rev. Charles J. Miller. Mrs. Miller is represented by Jackson attorney Calvin C. Williams Jr.
The lawsuit does not seek a specific amount of money, but asks for an award to compensate for emotional distress and the loss of Charles J. Miller's income and punitive damages sufficient to deter Lockheed from committing similar offenses in the future.
No. 2: In a second lawsuit filed Tuesday, David and Rhonda Blanks allege they have been emotionally scarred by the shootings. David Blanks was at the plant on July 8, 2003; Rhonda is his wife.
The couple is represented by Oxford attorney Kenneth A. Rutherford. The lawsuit seeks both compensatory and punitive damages, but does not demand a specific amount of money.
No. 3: On Friday, Tammie Lynn Fitzgerald filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the same defendants in Lauderdale County Circuit Court. She and her late husband, Mickey Lee Fitzgerald, have two children: Casey Aileen and Corey Lee.
Like the others, the complaint seeks both compensatory and punitive damages.
Fitzgerald's attorney is Brehm Bell of Bay St. Louis, who practiced for a number of years in Meridian before moving to the Gulf Coast about nine years ago.
U.S. District Court
Nos. 4, 5 and 6: Also on Friday, attorneys Bill Ready Sr. of Meridian and Robert A. Pritchard of Pascagoula filed three lawsuits on behalf of 47 plaintiffs in U.S. District Court in Jackson.
The plaintiffs in the first of these fall into several categories: surviving relatives of Lockheed employees who were killed; Lockheed employees who were present, injured and/or witnesses to the deaths of co-workers; employees who were not present in the plant, but say they have suffered emotional distress; and wives of Lockheed employees who feel powerless to ease their husbands' suffering.
Separate lawsuits were also filed on behalf of two Lockheed workers who were fired shortly after the shootings: Williams' former girlfriend, Shirley Price, and Billy Eugene Bradley and his wife, Mary Jane.
The complaints do not request specific damages.
No. 7: Surviving family members of two Lockheed employees killed in the July 2003 shootings, one employee who was injured, and the injured employee's wife filed suit Thursday in U.S. District Court.
The wrongful death portions of the complaint were filed by the surviving spouses of Lynette McCall and Sam Cockrell Bobby McCall and Beverly Cockrell.
Alvin Collier, who was injured, and his wife, Terri Lynn, are also plaintiffs.
This lawsuit lists a slightly different set of defendants. Lockheed Martin and Williams' estate are named, but the complaint also alleges that the labor union is at fault. Lockheed workers are members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, AFL-CIO.
The complaint does not request specific damages. Attorneys Justin Cobb of Meridian and Tyrone Means of Montgomery, Ala., represent these plaintiffs.
No. 8: The oldest of the Lockheed lawsuits was filed in March by Erica Willis Tanks, the daughter of Thomas Willis, who was killed. Her wrongful death complaint names Lockheed Martin and Williams' estate as defendants.
Tanks is represented by the Jackson law firm of Blair &Bondurant. The lawsuit does not seek specific damages.
Lockheed's response
In light of the lawsuits, Lockheed officials are reserving comment, although spokesman Joe Stout said the company has not been served with any of the most recent complaints.
Lockheed has, however, released this official statement:
The Background
On July 8, 2003, Lockheed employee Doug Williams left an ethics class at the aeronautical manufacturer's Meridian plant, only to return minutes later with guns.
He opened fire and killed five co-workers that day: Mickey Fitzgerald, Samuel Cockrell, Lynette McCall, Thomas Willis and the Rev. Charles Miller. Williams then committed suicide. DeLois Bailey, shot once in the pelvis, died a week later.
Eight people were injured: Brad Bynum, Al Collier, Brenda Dubose, Chuck McReynolds, Henry Odom, Charles Scott, Randy Wright and Steve Cobb.

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