The practice of personal injury law has been unfairly derided for years. Severely injured plaintiffs are treated as hypochondriacs and fakers. Empathetic and educated attorneys are painted as hustlers and opportunists. Even justified personal injury cases which changed society for the better retroactively become punchlines. Take for instance the case of Stella Liebeck. You may know that she sued the McDonald’s corporation after burning herself with a hot coffee. But did you know that Liebeck suffered third degree burns and required skin-grafts during her eight day hospital stay? With this vital context removed, McDonalds was painted as the victim of a frivolous lawsuit rather than the negligent party. Cases like Liebeck’s are more common than you may think. Although it’s far less common to find a case where negligent companies make it clear how much contempt they hold for those they injure.
One unfortunate family in California is finding this out firsthand, as their medical malpractice suit after the death of their father has taken a bizarre and sickening turn.
In the fall of 2017 Enrique Garcia Sanchez sought treatment for severe abdominal pain at South Coast Medical Center in Santa Ana, CA. Mr. Sanchez was diagnosed with alcohol-related pancreatitis. During his treatment, Mr. Sanchez’s gastroenterologist inserted a feeding tube which accidently pierced his colon, leading to a fatal infection.
Mr. Sanchez’s surviving family filed suit against the gastroenterologist in the Superior Court of Orange County, seeking $10 million in damages. At trial, the gastroenterologist’s defense told the jury to disregard Sanchez’s death certificate. This certificate listed his cause of death as; ”sepsis and peritonitis due to a tube-perforated colon.” In addition, he attacked the practice of personal injury law generally and went as far as to call the case “extortion.” His emotional appeals to the jury found fertile ground, as they took just twenty-six minutes to rule unanimously in favor of the gastroenterologist.
This would generally be the end of the story, would, that is, if not for what happened next. At an office party celebrating the successful conclusion of their case, the gastroenterologist’s attorney was recorded inviting a colleague to ring a “victory bell” and saying their case involved “a guy that was probably negligently killed, but we kind of made it look like other people did it.”
— torthub (@TheTorthub) May 18, 2022
The video quickly went viral on social media and the story was picked up by various news outlets. This has led to the law firm and gastroenterologist receiving harassment and even death threats. We here at Malloy Law Offices condemn this behavior in the strongest possible terms. Hateful rhetoric and threats of physical harm are never an appropriate response.
Worse yet, it distracts from the new and hopeful turn the case has taken since the now-notorious video was posted.
At an August 4th hearing, Orange County Superior Court Judge David Crandall has vacated his verdict and ordered the case back to court. Judge Crandall cited his duty to “protect the system” at this hearing, and would go on to say that the video seemed; “like an admission of negligence… like an admission the plaintiff should have prevailed.”
Moreover, it’s since been revealed that the jury foreman from the original trial worked as an insurance agent for two years. Which may have necessitated a new trial on its own.
Judge Crandall has acknowledged his own mistakes in the original case, and defended the reputation and body of work of the attorney shown in the video, but would go on to say “…good men make mistakes. The pope goes to confession.”
It’s still unclear if the family of Enrique Garcia Sanchez will receive damages for the tragic circumstances surrounding his death. The gastroenterologist has retained new council ahead of the second trial. These attorneys are working to dispel any connection between their case and the comments made by previous council. What effects a new set of litigators and a significantly raised public profile will have on the case is anyone’s guess.
Are you familiar with the concept of schadenfreude? It’s a German word for the happiness, humor, or joy one experiences seeing something bad happen to someone else, especially someone they don’t like. Schadenfreude is a major reason this story has grown to its current proportions. People saw the video as arrogant and tasteless and delighted in the consequences it brought upon the firm. But there’s an important lesson to be learned here. If you or a loved one has been injured due to the negligence of another party, you should never hesitate to explore your options and pursue any personal injury claim you may have in a court of law. Even if the negligent party is a large corporation.
The attorneys at Malloy Law Offices offer free consultations to assess the strength of course case and advise you on the best course of action. Our experienced team of litigators are the DMV’s personal injury specialists and will pursue the compensation you are entitled to while you focus on your recovery. Contact us today to start seeking justice.