LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. -- "In this case, you had adultery, you had infidelity, you had a Ménage a Trois and you had the fact that he was a police officer," admits attorney Tricia "CK" Hoffler.
She and other lawyers at Atlanta's Edmond & Lindsay firm said Friday they had an uphill battle to convince a Gwinnett County jury to place their personal beliefs aside and have sympathy for the family of 31-year-old Atlanta police officer William Martinez.
Those plaintiff attorneys won a strange medical malpractice case this week, despite how Martinez died.
Their lawsuit claimed Lawrenceville Doctor Sreenivasulu Gangasani and the Cardiovascular Group were to blame, not what Martinez was doing when it happened.
Both sides agree the young cop and a male friend were having three-way sex with a woman at a motel on Virginia Avenue near the Atlanta airport on March 12, 2009.
The woman was not his wife.
Around 3 a.m. he fell off the bed and became unresponsive.
When EMT's couldn't revive him, they took him to nearby South Fulton Medical Center where he was pronounced dead less than an hour later.
The cause of death was determined to be "Atheroschlerotic coronary artery disease."
In their lawsuit, lawyers for Martinez' widow claim Dr. Gangasani did not properly diagnose and treat Martinez for high blood pressure, chest pains, shortness of breath and irregular heartbeat.
They also claim he did not warn Martinez to avoid strenuous physical activity until more tests could be done.
"The type of sex that he was engaged in is the type that's totally unacceptable to our community," said Martinez family attorney Dr. Rod Edmond.
"But the fact of the matter is this man could have died running on the treadmill, running after a criminal," he added.
On Tuesday a Gwinnett County jury agreed, finding Dr. Gangasani "negligent."
But their verdict form also found police officer William Martinez 40% responsible for his own death.
That shared responsibility reduced the award to his widow from $5 million down to $3 million.
Sugeidy Martinez, who is left with two young sons, ages 7 and 9, issued a written statement through her attorneys:
"This is certainly not the best of times for me and my family. We love my husband and the father of our two sons and we will have to carry on without him. However, the recent verdict which the lawyers at Edmond & Lindsay
fought so hard to get will benefit our family and help me to educate and care for our children."
WXIA spoke with Dr. Gangasani by phone.
He said he would like nothing better than to defend his professional reputation, but referred us to the attorney handling his upcoming appeal of the verdict.
That attorney, Page Powell of Atlanta
, sent us a statement which reads in full:
"Dr. Gangasani did everything he could to prevent Mr. Martinez's death. Mr. Martinez had a well-documented history of not following his doctors' instructions. Here, after examining Mr. Martinez, Dr. Gangasani recommended follow-up cardiac testing, and he offered Mr. Martinez an appointment for the next day to have the testing performed. Mr. Martinez refused, and instead he scheduled the testing to take place one week later-the day after the sexual encounter that he had planned. Dr. Gangasani also specifically told Mr. Martinez not to engage in any strenuous activity, but unfortunately Mr. Martinez ignored this warning. Dr. Gangasani also gave Mr. Martinez appropriate medications, including aspirin, nitroglycerin, and cholesterol-lowering medications, and told Mr. Martinez to go to the emergency room immediately if he experienced any further chest pain. Thus, while Mr. Martinez's death was a tragedy, it could have been prevented if he had simply followed Dr. Gangasani's recommendations and instructions."