After a Clayton County jury awarded $31 million in a botched circumcision case Friday, the boy’s family is thankful while their lawyers are celebrating what could be a record verdict in such a case.
“I think it was a very fair verdict,” plaintiff’s attorney Neal Pope told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We got our story told and the jury and the court responded accordingly.”
The boy, whose name is being withheld to protect his privacy, was 18 days old in October 2013 when a nurse midwife at Riverdale’s Life Cycle Pediatrics severed part of his penis and sent him home without telling his mother what had happened, Pope said. The plaintiff’s attorneys said the child has had several corrective surgeries but will suffer mental anguish for years because of the resulting deformity, as well as physical pain from chronic scabbing.
Defense attorney Terrell “Chip” Benton said the roughly $31 million was to be split with Melissa Jones, the nurse midwife, paying 50 percent; Dr. Brian Register, a supervising obstetrician at the facility, paying 30 percent; and the clinic’s owner, Anne Sigouin, and the boy’s pediatrician, Dr. Abigail Kamishlian, splitting the rest. The clinic owner and pediatrician were accused during trial of being negligent because they did not recommend emergency surgery that could’ve limited the child’s problems. Their attorneys maintained that they hadn’t been told of the full extent of the child’s injuries.
The jury also awarded $125,000 in punitive damages, a spokeswoman for Pope’s firm said, though it wasn’t immediately clear Monday who was responsible for paying, because the documents had not been filed with the clerk on Monday.
Benton, who represented the midwife and clinic doctor, said Monday he had no comment on the verdict. Asked if an appeal was planned, he said, “We are exploring all our options at this point.
Page Powell, who represented the clinic's owner, disagreed with the Judge Shalonda Jones-Parker's decision to allow the jury to find Sigouin personally liable after the court had already found that she wasn't.
Pope said he fully expects appeals and perhaps collection efforts after that. Though the work isn’t done, he’s pleased that the jury acknowledged the long years of medical and social difficulties the boy, who soon turns 5, has ahead of him.
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“He’ll need therapy off and on for the rest of his life,” Pope said. “He will have embarrassment” and trouble with relationships.
The child isn’t alone in his plight, said David Llewellyn, an Atlanta attorney who has worked roughly 50 cases involving circumcision injuries. He isn’t involved in the Clayton case.
“The doctors don’t set out to do wrong,” he said. “They’re negligent. They run a red light.”
He hopes the Clayton case will send a message of the dangers that can arise when medical professionals aren’t careful enough. He said no one keeps track nationally of verdicts and settlements plaintiffs receive in such cases, but before Friday, the highest Llewellyn had heard of was nowhere near $31 million.
As far as he knows, “it is a national record.”
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