Fayette County

Jury awards slain woman's family $55.9 million

A Fayette County jury awarded $55.9 million Tuesday to the family of a woman murdered by a Lexington optometrist.

Michael J. Flick killed Christina Wittich, 28, and shot her boyfriend, Randall Lambirth, in the arm in 2005. Lambirth, with whom Flick had a business dispute, survived the attack.

The jury deliberated for an hour Tuesday before returning the verdict in Fayette Circuit Court, lawyers for Wittich's family said. At the end of the one-day trial, the jury awarded $53 million in punitive damages, $1 million for pain and suffering, and $1.9 million for lost wages, said Harry Rankin, one of the lawyers who represented the Wittich family.

In August, a Fayette County jury said Flick also should pay Lambirth $11 million in damages — the maximum $1 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages.

A jury found Flick guilty in January 2008 of intentional murder, first-degree burglary and assault under extreme emotional disturbance. Flick is serving a life sentence but could be eligible for parole in 16 years.

It is unlikely the Wittich family and Lambirth will be able to collect the money the juries awarded them. But Rankin said money is not the issue.

"This was an extremely wrongful, evil, premeditated and cowardly act by Dr. Flick that needed to be addressed by a jury to tell the family members what the life of Christina Wittich was worth," said Rankin.

An attorney for Flick could not be reached for comment.

E. Andre Busald, another attorney for the Wittich family, said the jury's verdict also sends a strong message about violence against women.

"Senseless violence against women will not be tolerated," Busald said. "I think that's what the jury's verdict said today."

Lambirth and Flick had been involved in a business dispute and a lawsuit before Wittich's slaying. Lambirth bought Flick's optometry practice next to LensCrafters at Lexington Green in September 2003 but was to employ Flick for three more years.

Court documents said Flick alleged he had "severe depression" because "Lambirth did what he could each day to torment Flick at work in hopes that he would quit so Lambirth would not have to pay Flick in full for the practice."

In November 2004, Lambirth fired Flick after learning Flick was working at another optometry practice on Saturdays.

Flick filed a wrongful-termination and breach-of-contract lawsuit in March 2005. The men did not speak to or see each other again until May 20, 2005, the day of the shooting.

Flick shot Wittich in the side and back while she was in the kitchen of Lambirth's home on Landridge Drive. When Lambirth got home and tried to attend to his girlfriend, Flick shot him.