A mistrial was declared Tuesday in a libel lawsuit against the Los Angeles Times when an Orange County Superior Court judge removed himself from the case.
Judge William F. Rylaarsdam declared the mistrial and discharged the jury in a lawsuit brought by a Newport Beach plastic surgeon. Dr. Edward J. Domanskis alleges that two March, 1990, articles in The Times about a patient who died after breast implant surgery in his office were false and misleading and damaged his practice.
The Times contends that the stories were factually correct and properly reported.
Rylaarsdam removed himself from the case after an appellate court ordered him to step down or show cause why he should not.
A three-judge panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal, which halted the trial Friday to consider the issue, had given Rylaarsdam until Oct. 13 to comply or ask for a full hearing on the order.
Domanskis’ attorney asked Rylaarsdam to step down from the case last week, just days before opening arguments began before a jury. Each side in the case has a right to ask once for a new judge without offering an explanation.
Rylaarsdam refused to recuse himself, contending that the request came too late in the proceedings. Domanskis’ attorney appealed, and the appellate court agreed to hear the case. Rylaarsdam then accepted Domanskis’ challenge, recusing himself and declaring a mistrial.
Opening arguments had been completed and Domanskis had begun testifying when the appellate court stayed the trial on Sept. 24 to allow the appeal to be heard. The Times opposed the appeal.
Domanskis’ attorney, Donald A. Vaughn, declined to comment.
Attorneys for both sides are scheduled to appear in court Monday to begin a new trial.