A Federal jury recently denied a woman monetary compensation in L.A. County, where she attempted to sue the coroner for falsely deeming her husband’s death a homicide and subsequently suggesting she was responsible. L.A based legal team Ivie, McNeill and Wyatt represented the coroner, Yulai Wang, helping him to avoid a $10 million pay out to the plaintiff, Lois Goodman, a professional tennis umpire. Goodman said that her civil rights were denied and she claimed that Wang had been pressured by police to file the falsified police report.
The jury deliberated for six hours.
“Dr. Wang did not make a mistake,” explained Rickey Ivie, one of the defense team’s leaders, to reporters.
“I believe that the autopsy report met all the standards and requirements…”
“We felt we had the right position from the beginning. The case that was presented was that Dr. Wang intentionally falsified the report but the evidence did not support that at all.”
In 2012 Alan Goodman, 80, was found dead inside the couple’s Woodland Hills condominium and paramedics noticed a suspicious cut to the side of his head. Lois Goodman told responders that her husband was ill and had fallen down a flight of stairs.
Days later, a coroner’s investigator found that the injuries, which included broken cup shards in the Alan’s head, were consistent with being struck by a sharp object. That ultimately led to Goodman’s arrest at a luxury Manhattan hotel as she prepared for the U.S. Open tennis tournament, with authorities claiming she bludgeoned her husband with a coffee mug.
However, two independent reports ruled his death accidental, helping to acquit Lois Goodman and giving her leeway to sue the county coroner. Ivie said he did not have an opinion on whether Goodman was guilty or not but came away from the case “with no doubt that this was a homicide.”
“The plaintiff urged that she had been exonerated by the DA and she had been declared not guilty of murder,” Ivie told reporters during a recent phone interview with the Los Angeles Daily Journal.
“That was her spin. But that’s not true. What happened was the DA dismissed the murder charges against her without prejudice, which means the DA can re-file at a later date. The testimony that she was acquitted was not true.”
Ivie said that Goodman’s guilt or innocence was not used as a determining factor in the defense’s case.
“The strategy was simple,” he said.
“[It was] to make sure the truth comes out and to make sure Dr. Wang was able to tell his side.”
The issue, he said, was whether or not Wang intentionally or recklessly made material omissions in his report.
“That was the issue in the case,” Ivie said.
“Often lawyers trying cases go astray from the issue. They go on tangents. But this jury decided based on the issues of the case… There can be second opinions and two doctors don’t always agree. But the thing to understand was that Dr. Wang was not being sued for expressing his opinion, even if it was a minority opinion.
“The misunderstanding the plaintiff tried to sell the jurors was that the case was about whether or not they agreed with Wang. But the case was about whether or not the autopsy report had been falsified.”
Wang said he diagrammed and noted all the wounds and that further elaboration is not required on an autopsy. He said that he changed his initial finding from “pending” to “homicide” when lab results ruled out natural death.
Under Ivie’s questioning during the trial, Wang said that there were 17 incise wounds to Goodman’s head and there were none of the usual indicators of a fall. No broken bones, no head trauma, no skull fracture, no dislocated joints.
Wang dismissed any notion that LAPD detectives pressured him to conclude the death was a homicide. “That’s against my beliefs. That’s against my profession,” he said.
Ivie said the coroner’s job was not to consider all the evidence gathered by LAPD, solely the evidence culled from Alan Goodman’s body.
“Dr. Wang does not investigate suspects. His job is to ascertain the cause and manner death,” said Ivie.