We all know that lawyers can be lying, cheating scumbags that destroy all that is good in the world. (Obviously just being hyperbolic here.) Here is the story of a lawyer in Orange County, California that helped a physician get out of a malpractice suit by basically lying to the jury.
The patient, Enrique Garcia Sanchez, was admitted into South Coast Global Medical Center in Santa Ana, CA in 2017 with alcoholic pancreatitis. He was unable to eat for over a month. His gastroenterologist, Dr. Essam Quiraishi elected to put in a PEG tube to facilitate his nutritional intake. He unfortunately perforated the colon while doing the procedure. This mistake was not caught until Mr. Sanchez developed peritonitis and died from septic shock at the University of California, Irvine Medical Center a month later. The family sued Dr. Quiraishi for $10 million.
This is where Dr. Quiraishi's lawyer comes in. His name is Robert L. McKenna III, a founding partner at Kjar, McKenna & Stockalper. He was able to convince the jury that Mr. Sanchez died from catastrophic pancreatitis, not septic shock despite the coroner's death certificate stating the death was due to sepsis and peritonitis from a colon perforation. Mr. McKenna also blamed the hospital staff for not notifying Dr. Quiraishi about the X-ray findings in a timely manner. Not to leave any stone unturned, he also blamed the plaintiff's lawyers for "extortion" of the doctor and being part of a "personal-injury industrial complex." Mr. McKenna sowed enough doubt into the jury that they found the physician innocent of malpractice in a unanimous vote.
Normally this would be the end of another malpractice suit that happens every day across the country. But what makes this extraordinary is that Mr. McKenna was caught on video celebrating his legal victory at his office and it was posted on the internet. It was quickly taken down later but not before other people saw it and reposted it all over the web.
In the video, Mr. McKenna is seen at an office party discussing the case and how he deceived the jury into accepting his alternative facts. He described the case as "a guy that was probably negligently killed, but we kind of made it look like other people did it. 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 the death certificate says, or the coroner from the Orange County coroner's office.'" He said it was the fastest defense verdict he had ever gotten and even had a colleague ring a victory bell in the office.
Naturally the internet mob is now calling for Mr. McKenna to be disbarred. His manipulation of the jury personifies the qualities that people expect and hate about lawyers. However, others have stated that lawyers lie all the time to juries to get their clients free from charges like murder, assault, and other felonies because that is their job. Mr. McKenna is just very good at it. His only mistake was getting filmed bragging about his legal abilities and belittling the jury.
As a physician, I certainly would want somebody like Mr. McKenna on my side, no matter what he has to do to get me off the hook. This story also illustrates that most people want to believe that doctors are doing the best they can to help people. Almost 90% of medical malpractice cases are found for the defendant even when the evidence is strong for conviction. So should Mr. McKenna be brought before the Bar or should he be lauded for his success? This is a tough one legally and ethically.