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An OC attorney won a personal injury case.  Then came the celebratory video, and an apology

Robert L. McKenna III, a medical malpractice attorney, was telling an Orange County jury how the case against his client, a gastroenterologist, was totally baseless, insulting and outrageous. The plaintiffs’ demand for $10 million for the death of their father, a 49-year-old forklift driver, amounted to nothing less than “extortion”, he said.

“I’m proud of what I do, and I have to tell you, in the 30 years I’ve done this, I’ve never seen a more insulting and factually devoid presentation in my entire career,” insisted the Huntington Beach attorney. at trial in April.

McKenna told jurors to disregard the death certificate, which attributed death to sepsis and peritonitis from a perforated colon from a feeding tube, which his client had inserted. He pointed to the failures of other hospital staff and maintained that the patient died of other causes. This, he argued, was a cash grab.

“Welcome to America. Welcome to the injury machine, the injury industrial complex,” he told jurors, who quickly returned with a 12-0 verdict for his client.

But McKenna summed it up in decidedly different language when he and his colleagues gathered at the office amid balloons in May to celebrate recent wins.

The case involved “a guy who was probably killed by negligence, but we kind of made it look like other people did it,” McKenna said. “And we actually had a death certificate that said he died the same way the plaintiff said he died and we had to say, ‘No, you really shouldn’t believe what this certificate says. of death, or the Coroner of the Orange County Coroner’s Office.'”

McKenna wasn’t finished.

“Overcoming all these obstacles, we managed to punch three lawyers in the face,” he said, referring to lawyers for three plaintiffs. It was the fastest defense verdict he had ever won, he said, inviting the legal partner who had tried the case with him to ring the victory bell.

McKenna’s speech was recorded on video and posted on his company’s social media page, but quickly deleted. Nevertheless, it is now widely publicized, with a furious reaction from the legal community.

“In my opinion, this is one of the reasons why people tend to distrust and even hate lawyers,” said Jorge Ledezma, the lead attorney representing the plaintiffs in the tube case. feed. “They will say one thing to the jury or in public and then say the opposite in private.”

In the video, he said, McKenna “admits to deceiving the jury,” adding, “It would be the equivalent of Johnnie Cochran saying, ‘I know OJ did it, but we got it when even brought out. “”

In a statement to The Times, McKenna said his remarks on the video, which he was unaware would be recorded and released, were “solely for an internal briefing for our staff, using abbreviated phrases that might understandably sow confusion among a lay public. unfamiliar with the case in question, and the law in general.

McKenna described his remarks to his staff as “ineloquent” and “inaccurate”, and said he understood why people outside the office “might take offense to it”.

“I have apologized to my client, to opposing counsel, and to the medical and legal communities,” McKenna said. “However, nothing in my remarks should undermine our very transparent trial strategy or the jury’s verdict in favor of my client.”

The case involved the treatment of Enrique Garcia Sanchez, who worked as a radio host in San Salvador before coming to the United States in the early 2000s. He moved to Santa Ana with his two daughters, working in a bicycle shop and later as a forklift driver.

“He walked us to school and took us everywhere,” said his eldest daughter, Johanna Garcia, 27. “He was a really proud father.”

On November 5, 2017, he arrived at South Coast Global Medical Center in Santa Ana with severe abdominal pain. His mother had recently died, his family said, and he was depressed and drinking. He was diagnosed with alcohol-related pancreatitis and struggled for a month, eventually losing his ability to swallow.

Dr. Essam Quraishi, the gastroenterologist, inserted the feeding tube into Sanchez’s abdomen in early December. According to the lawsuit filed by Sanchez’s family, the tube punctured his colon, infecting his body and killing him later that month at UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange.

“He fought to be alive. He fought the pain to be with us because that’s pretty much what he had – us,” Johanna Garcia said. “To be there sitting next to him until his last breath, giving him one last hug and seconds later he’s cold and stiff, it’s traumatic.”

Garcia said she was turned down by four attorneys before Ledezma, a Santa Ana attorney, agreed to take on the case.

“I thought it was one of the most meritorious medical malpractice cases I’ve ever seen,” Ledezma said. “The evidence is so compelling, so black on white.

“It was the coroner’s office that said he died of a misplaced PEG tube,” Ledezma said, referring to the feeding tube. “To me, the story was very compelling, and I thought that even in a very conservative area like Orange County, the story would be received.”

Ledezma argued that Quraishi relied on an X-ray which incorrectly showed the tube was correctly placed in the stomach, but that he should have ordered a more detailed CT scan.

McKenna, the doctor’s attorney, is a founding partner of the law firm Kjar, McKenna & Stockalper, with offices in El Segundo and Huntington Beach. The firm’s website boasts that the partners have been named “Super Lawyers” by Los Angeles Magazine.

In Quraishi’s defense, McKenna pointed to a surgeon at UC Irvine Medical Center who had treated Sanchez and believed he did not have peritonitis.

“This house of cards that they built that this man somehow got peritonitis and sepsis and died doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, and it doesn’t make any sense,” McKenna told jurors.

McKenna said Sanchez “had a catastrophic injury that ate most of his pancreas,” adding, “It’s not a survivable event.”

Referring to plaintiffs’ attorneys, McKenna said “Mr. Jorge and his team” were part of the “personal injury industrial complex.”

Experts hired by McKenna’s team said there was no negligence in Sanchez’s death. But the lawyer also argued that hospital staff failed to pass key information from an X-ray report to Quraishi.

“Dr. Quraishi wanted accountability and wanted his day in court and didn’t want to be denied that by extortion from the other side,” he said.

Sanchez’s family requested $10 million for closing arguments in the courtroom of Orange County Superior Court Judge James Crandall.

When McKenna’s celebratory remarks surfaced on social media — tagged with the Instagram tag of one of his firm’s partners — lawyers immediately began uploading the video.

On Torthub, an Instagram page frequented by lawyers, it has been viewed more than 5,500 times. Most of the comments were critical of McKenna, some scathingly. “Absolutely sickening,” posted one commenter. “How is he not written off???”

Others defended McKenna. “They did their job. That’s what lawyers do, represent their client as best they can.

Johanna Garcia said she was shocked when she saw McKenna’s video.

” I could not believe it. It was infuriating to see that,” she said. “Ringing bells, like it wasn’t a life that was taken away.”

At the same time, she said, she felt a kind of relief. “He admitted to himself that we were right. I feel like the truth has come out, even though justice has not been done.

Her family’s attorney, Ledezma, said McKenna’s remarks “did the profession a lot of damage,” and said the celebratory video is notable for what McKenna didn’t say about the ‘affair.

“He didn’t say Dr. Quraishi was a good doctor,” Ledezma said. “He didn’t say our case was groundless. He did not say that Dr. Quraishi had been the victim of a frivolous lawsuit. Nor did he say that justice had been done.

Ledezma plans to appeal the verdict based on what he said were legal errors in the trial and McKenna’s “incendiary closing argument.”

“Mr. McKenna is a very good lawyer,” he said. “If his goal was to confuse the jury, he did a good job.”

Los Angeles Times

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