Home Medical Malpractice After winning lawyer boasts, judge tosses out OC civil case verdict – Orange County Register

After winning lawyer boasts, judge tosses out OC civil case verdict – Orange County Register

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A month after a celebration video by an Orange County lawyer went viral and helped prompt a judge to throw out a civil verdict, a high-profile attorney has agreed to represent the other side — the daughters of a man who died following a medical procedure.

The $10 million civil lawsuit against Dr. Essam Quraishi appeared to have come to an abrupt end in April, when a jury took less than a half-hour to unanimously decide that the gastroenterologist was not responsible for the December 2017 death of Enrique Garcia Sanchez.

Soon after, a video of Robert McKenna III, Quraishi’s Huntington Beach trial attorney, boastfully celebrating the verdict appeared online.

“A guy that was probably negligently killed, but we kind of made it look like other people did it,” McKenna said to others at his law firm during the recording. “And we actually had a death certificate that said he died the very way the plaintiff said he died and we had to say, no, you really shouldn’t believe what that death certificate says. Or the coroner from the Orange County Coroner’s Office who says it says what it says and it is right. …

“Overcoming those hurdles, we managed to sock three lawyers in the face,” the attorney added in the video, with his remarks followed by other law firm employees applauding as someone rings a “victory” bell.

The video quickly went viral, eliciting condemnation within the Southern California legal community before drawing wider attention following articles by the Los Angeles Times and the ABA Journal, a national legal medium.

After being sent the video by several people, Nick Rowley, a nationally recognized trial attorney who has won numerous multi-million-dollar verdicts, agreed to join the daughters’ legal team as lead counsel against Dr. Quraishi for free if a new trial was declared.

“I looked at this (video) and I had to put my phone down, I had to go on a walk, because I was enraged,” Rowley said. “To think of this family losing their patriarch because he was negligently killed. …”

McKenna quickly taped an apology video, according to court records, in which he said he didn’t know his comments about the case were being videotaped and asserted that they were taken out of context.

He added that his comments about “making it look like someone else was responsible” were based on the opinion of experts who had reviewed the evidence, not his own conclusion. It was unclear who he was referring to.

The attorneys who represented Sanchez’s daughters in the malpractice trial responded with a blistering rebuke of McKenna included in a motion for a new trial, describing his comments in the video as “insensitive, unprofessional and in poor taste. …

“He is gloating and bragging and he does not once mention justice or righteousness or a search for the truth,” they wrote to the court. “Instead it implies that the truth does not matter — only winning matters. Getting to ring that victory bell matters. Socking lawyers in the face matters — even if you have to make it look like someone else did it at the expense of the truth.”

The daughters’ attorneys, while requesting a new trial, also contended a jury member failed to disclose that he used to work at an insurance company and therefore could have had a bias against medical malpractice lawsuits.

A different legal defense team took over for McKenna, and in their written opposition to the request for a new trial described McKenna’s videotaped comments as coming during an interoffice Zoom meeting meant to celebrate victories for the law firm during the pandemic.

“The description was hyperbolic and meant to recognize the work other lawyers put onto the case,” the new defense team representing Dr. Quraishi wrote. “It was not intended to be, nor was it, an objective, comprehensive or even accurate recitation of this case. Mr. McKenna was unaware he was being taped or that it would be put on social media.”

On Aug. 4, Orange County Superior Court Judge James Crandall granted a new trial, effectively throwing out the earlier verdict. A new jury will decide the case.

Sanchez was admitted to South Coast Global Medical Center in Santa Ana for severe abdominal pain, apparently resulting from alcohol-related pancreatitis.

Lawyers for Sanchez’s family say a feeding tube inserted by Quraishi accidentally pierced Sanchez’s colon, leading to a fatal infection. Their argument is apparently bolstered by a death certificate that placed the blame for Sanchez’s death on sepsis and peritonitis resulting from a colon perforated by a tube.

During the first trial, McKenna argued that Sanchez suffered “not a survivable event,” court records show. Dr. Quraishi’s treatment of Sanchez met the “highest standard for care,” his legal team said, according to court records. McKenna described the lawsuit as a “cash grab.”

Rowley, the new lead attorney for the daughters, described the first trial as “the perfect storm,” in which Quraishi’s attorneys were able to “prejudice” the jury against the family’s attorneys.

Rowley said the family is driven by a desire for justice, noting that even a multi-million-dollar verdict would likely have been reduced to $250,000 under state law.

“They took this case to make sure other patients would live — not for the money,” Rowley said.

The new jury trial has yet to be scheduled.

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