An attorney seeking a seat in the Florida Legislature represents plastic surgery centers where patients have been maimed and killed as a result of botched cosmetic procedures.
Kubs Lalchandani, a Democrat running to represent the state's 113th House district, is a co-founder and partner of Lalchandani Simon PL, a law firm specializing in the representation of healthcare professionals, tech start-ups and the hospitality industry. Among its clients, the firm represents cosmetic surgery centers, some of which have been in the news for procedures gone wrong.
Last year, a woman from Antigua undergoing liposuction at Spectrum Aesthetics Center for Cosmetic Surgery died as a result of complications associated with the procedure, according to an autopsy report. Nikisha Lewis’ death came amid a spate of fatalities related to South Florida plastic surgery centers, and two years after a doctor operating at the same clinic and others, Osakatukei “Osak” Omulepu, was accused by the state Department of Health of botching four surgeries in two days.
In 2013, an 18-year-old girl went into a coma shortly after undergoing breast augmentation at the Coral Gables Cosmetic Center and awoke with brain damage. The anesthesiologist on the procedure, Mario Alberto Diaz, once pleaded guilty to charges in Iowa related to his role in prescribing thousands of medications through an online pill mill. The state charged Diaz with medical malpractice in the 2013 incident and later settled.
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Last month, Delma Pineda died following breast augmentation and liposuction procedures at an affiliated clinic, CG Cosmetic Surgery. An autopsy report is pending.
Each of these clinics was represented by Lalchandani, who is running in the Democratic primary to replace David Richardson as the representative of a district that includes all of Miami Beach, PortMiami, downtown and Little Havana. But the attorney said in a statement that surgery centers represent only a portion of his firm's business.
"My law firm represents many clients in the technology, healthcare, and hospitality fields, including physicians," said Lalchandani, who declined an interview. "Our job is to provide these clients with legal counsel. As noted in a few stories where I was on record on behalf of my clients, my focus has always been to offer words of support for those impacted and always offer my clients the best legal path forward."
Linda Perez's family would beg to differ.
After the 18-year-old slipped into a coma following her procedure at Coral Gables Cosmetic Center, the surgeon who worked on Perez wrote in post-operative notes that her mother told him at the hospital that when her daughter gave birth she had problems during labor and had to be intubated. In a story published by the New York Daily News, Lalchandani was quoted suggesting that Perez had failed to provide important information about her medical history before her surgery went wrong, and that he was being "stonewalled" in obtaining her medical history.
Mark Eiglarsh, an attorney hired by Perez's mother and stepfather, said that's all false. He said the family felt Lalchandani was "reprehensible" while discussing the case in the media.
"They believe that his public release of false and slanderous allegations while my client Ms. Perez was in a coma, unable to speak for herself, was classless, unethical and morally deplorable," Eiglarsh said in a statement.
Lalchandani did not respond to questions about his views on healthcare policy. State lawmakers craft the laws that regulate plastic surgery clinics, which in some cases are able to operate in gray areas of the law. In Florida, as in most states, cosmetic centers aren't required to carry malpractice liability insurance. Nor are their doctors — the reason Eiglarsh says Perez's family never sued over her surgery.
Lalchandani's firm, according to its website, specializes in representing doctors and surgery centers practicing without malpractice insurance and offers a flat-fee "general counsel" representation. "An increasing number of doctors in Florida have made the decision to relieve themselves of the substantial burden of paying for costly medical malpractice insurance premiums," the website states. "Additionally, there is strong statistical evidence that going without insurance reduces the likelihood of being involved in a lawsuit."
To win the seat, Lalchandani will need to beat former Miami Beach commissioner Deede Weithorn in the August primary. Perez's family doesn't live in the district, but Eiglarsh said their preferred candidate is whoever is opposing Lalchandani.
"They will be passionately supporting his opposition," he said. "Whoever that might be."
Miami Herald staff writer Daniel Chang contributed to this report.