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O.C. lawyer’s boast over courtroom win prompts judge to toss it out

Katherine Garcia, left, and sister Johanna Garcia at their Norwalk home. They are the daughters of the late Enrique Garcia.
Katherine Garcia, 21, left, and her sister Johanna Garcia, 27, are photographed in May at their home in Norwalk. They are the daughters of Enrique Garcia, seen in framed photograph they are holding, a 49-year-old Santa Ana man who died in December 2017 after a medical procedure at South Coast Global Medical Center. The Garcia sisters sued a gastroenterologist for negligence but lost at trial in an Orange County civil court. After the verdict, Robert McKenna III, an attorney representing the doctor, appeared in a social-media post celebrating the verdict in a way that sparked controversy.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning. It’s Friday, Aug. 19. I’m Carol Cormaci, bringing you today’s TimesOC newsletter with the latest roundup of news and events.

Huntington Beach attorney Robert McKenna III was understandably pleased last spring after he won a medical malpractice trial in an Orange County civil courtroom for his client, Dr. Essam Quraishi. So much so he crowed about it to his colleagues afterward and a video of that bragging session was shared with others.

The case he won centered on the death of Enrique Garcia Sanchez, who in early November 2017 went to South Coast Global Medical Center in Santa Ana with severe abdominal pain. Quraishi, a gastroenterologist, inserted a feeding tube in Sanchez’s abdomen in early December of that year.

According to the lawsuit filed by Sanchez’s family seeking $10 million, the tube pierced the colon, infecting his body and killing him later that month at UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange.

To refresh the memories of newsletter readers who saw a mention here earlier this summer of the McKenna video, a small excerpt from Los Angeles Times reporter Christopher Goffard’s coverage of the saga:

The case involved “a guy that was probably negligently killed, 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 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.”

These words reached the ears of the judge who presided over the civil trial and did not sit well with him. He has vacated the verdict, Goffard reports, and ordered it back to court.

“I think I have to protect the system and say plaintiffs deserve a new trial,” Orange County Superior Court Judge
James Crandall said at hearing earlier this month.

Goffard further quotes the judge as saying: “When he says on video a ‘guy was probably negligently killed,’ probably is more likely than not. Then he goes on to say, ‘But we kind of made it look like other people did it.’ That seems like an admission of negligence. Seems like an admission the plaintiff should have prevailed.”

An attorney now representing Quraishi, Scott Nelson, said in an emailed statement to The Times the doctor “vehemently disagrees with the court’s decision to grant a new trial,” which he said resulted from “false statements” made by McKenna “for the sole purpose of self-aggrandizement.”

Nelson said he would challenge the ruling for the new trial.

MORE NEWS

Jack Chen alleges he first captured hidden-camera video of his wife, Yue “Emily” Yu, pouring Drano into his drink July 11.
Jack Chen claims in court documents that his wife, Dr, Yue “Emily” Yu, tried to poison him by secretly pouring Drano into his morning tea.
(Courtesy of Hittelman Family Law Group)

— An Orange County Superior Court judge yesterday extended a temporary restraining order against Mission Viejo dermatologist Dr. Yue “Emily” Yu from seeing or phoning her children in light of allegations that she poisoned her husband with Drano in their Irvine home, according to a City News Service report. Judge Thomas Lo scheduled the next hearing in the custody and divorce case for Sept. 16. Attorneys for Yu said video stills provided by her husband, Dr. Jack Chen, that led Irvine police to arrest Yu were fabricated.

— If you live in an O.C. community underneath a flight path and have noticed an uptick in related noise, take heart: John Wayne Airport officials joined with county leaders in a news conference Wednesday to announce the launch of Fly Friendly, an initiative that will monitor and score participating private jet operators on their flight behaviors. They’ll be encouraged to take quieter routes and engage in sustainable practices.

— A national political group has its eyes on three close congressional races in Orange County and is looking to small businesses to boost support for Democrats, reports my colleague Priscella Vega. Justice Unites Us, a super PAC run by AAPI Democrats, will focus on trying to flip the O.C.-centered inland seats of Republican Reps. Young Kim and Michelle Steel while safeguarding Democratic Rep. Katie Porter in a predominantly coastal district.

— U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland toured the Syphon Reservoir Improvement Project in Irvine yesterday morning before touting federal funding that will help the drought-stricken state. Joined by Rep. Katie Porter (D-Irvine) and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton, Haaland announced the Department of the Interior’s plan to allocate more than $310 million to combat a “megadrought” throughout the West. My colleague Gabriel San Román’s full story on the announcement can be found here.

— Nearly $4 billion in student loan debt will be canceled for 208,000 former students of for-profit ITT Technical Institute, the U.S. Department of Education said Tuesday. One of the Institute’s Southern California locations was in the city of Orange and was closed along with all other sites in 2016. The decision came after federal investigations found the school had defrauded hundreds of thousands of students with false claims about their ability to get jobs or transfer credits and lied about the accreditation of its nursing program.

— In heartbreaking news, a toddler was struck and killed by an Amazon delivery van in Irvine on Tuesday, according to authorities. The incident occurred around 3:30 p.m. in an apartment community in the 300 block of Estancia, the Irvine Police Department said Tuesday night.

— The Newport Beach Police Department collaborated last weekend with the Seal Beach, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, Santa Ana police departments and the California Highway Patrol in a crackdown in Newport Beach on street racing and vehicles with loud or modified exhaust systems. Officials reported three people were arrested, 206 vehicles were stopped and 177 of those were cited for vehicle violations.

LIFE & LEISURE

Crystal Cove State Park volunteer Dana Hunter, center, goes over the benefits of using hiking poles.
Crystal Cove State Park volunteer Dana Hunter, center, goes over the benefits of using hiking poles, which help reduce the weight on a person’s knees, during a “Hiking 101" Class at Michael & Tricia Berns Environmental Study Loop last week.
(Kevin Chang / Daily Pilot)

— As the outdoors drew more and more people weary of being cooped up during the pandemic, it became apparent to some hiking enthusiasts that not all the newbies understood trail etiquette and safety. A class held last week at Crystal Cove State Park, Hiking 101, aimed to elevate visitors’ understanding of the outdoor resources available to them and how to enjoy them safely and responsibly, offering wisdom on what gear works best for different terrains and temperatures, what to put in a pack or first aid kit and other tricks. Reporter Sara Cardine sat in on the class led by Winter Bonnin, an interpretive naturalist at Crystal Cove, who said she’s sure they’ll offer it again. “The goal is to make sure people who come into our parks are well prepared and understand the land and understand what it means to be out on a trail,” Bonnin said.

— Daniel Castillo, owner and pitmaster at Heritage Craft Barbecue marked the two-year anniversary of his San Juan Capistrano restaurant on Aug. 13 by hosting the Craft BBQ Invitational at Sea Terrace Park in Dana Point. The event, which drew 1,000 barbecue aficionados, featured 50 pitmasters from all over the country.

SPORTS

SoFi Stadium in Inglewood could be site for St. John Bosco-Mater Dei football game.
SoFi Stadium in Inglewood could be site for St. John Bosco-Mater Dei football game in October.
(Gary Klein / Los Angeles Times)

— Mater Dei gridiron fans: L.A. Times prep sports columnist Eric Sondheimer reports the biggest high school football game of the regular season is expected to be St. John Bosco vs. Mater Dei on Oct. 7. It was originally scheduled for Santa Ana Stadium, but the schools are in negotiations with Rams representatives to play the game at SoFi Stadium, according to Ghalee Wadood, high school coordinator for the Rams. He said St. John Bosco has signed off and Mater Dei must also agree to playing at the venue.

— The Angels’ Mike Trout is hopeful that today in Detroit will be the day he can return to playing. “My back feels great,” he said before the Angels’ 11-7 loss to the Seattle Mariners at Angel Stadium on Wednesday, according to a report by Sarah Valenzuela. “Trout said he does not feel any pain and that he’s been cleared to play. Whether he does play today will depend on how he feels,” Valenzuela writes.

CALENDAR THIS

Members of the Marina Youth Theater run lines for "Shrek the Musical" at Huntington Beach High School on Monday.
Members of the Marina Youth Theater run lines for “Shrek the Musical” at Huntington Beach High School on Monday. The show opened last night and runs through Sunday. Tickets are $20 and $25.
(Scott Smeltzer / Daily Pilot)

— Marina Youth Theatre was founded in Huntington Beach last spring and is staging its first production this weekend. “Shrek the Musical” (music by Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire) debuted last night at Huntington Beach High and continues with shows throughout the weekend. Kids will love it! The high school is located at 1905 Main St. Tickets, priced at $20 and $25, are available on tix.com.

— Calle Cuatro Marketplace, 400 E. 4th St., Santa Ana, hosts free Dancing on the Street in its Plaza Calle Cuatro, at the corner of 4th and French streets, every Saturday. Entertainment is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m.

— The Steve Miller Band will perform at Pacific Amphitheatre,100 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa, at 8:15 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 25. Tickets are $55 to $100 and can be purchased here. There are still some seats available as I type this.

KEEP IN TOUCH

If you have a memory or story about Orange County, I would love to read and share it in this space. Please try to keep your submission to 100 words or less and include your name and current city of residence.

I’d appreciate your help in making this the best newsletter it can be. Please send news tips, your memory of life in O.C., or comments to carol.cormaci@latimes.com.