The maker of an instrument used in circumcisions claimed that injury was impossible with its use, but after an infant lost a portion of his penis during an operation with the Mogen clamp, a judge awarded $10.8 million in damages against the company.
The judgment handed down Friday in New York involves an Atlanta lawyer who has been crusading against circumcision as a dangerous and unnecessary practice.
Attorney David Llewellyn won a similar case in Atlanta last year and the injury behind that prior lawsuit in Fulton County Superior Court put the New York clamp manufacturer on notice about the danger of the device, his current lawsuit said.
The baby in the current case, identified in court documents only as L.G., lost the entire glans, or head, of his penis after it was pulled into the jaws of the clamp, according to a federal magistrate's order. On Friday, U.S. District Judge Jack B. Weinstein ordered Mogen Circumcision Instruments of New York to pay $10.8 million in compensatory and punitive damages to the Florida boy, now 3, and his parents.
The parents "are extraordinarily distraught and angered that this company tells people it can't happen," Llewellyn said.
It's unclear whether they will ever collect the money. Mogen is already in default on a $7.5 million judgment in 2007 from a Massachusetts lawsuit, Llewellyn said.
The company is going out of business, according to a woman who answered the phone at its Brooklyn headquarters Monday. The woman, who said she was a secretary and would identify herself only as D. Rotter, the person whom Llewellyn said was served papers in the lawsuit. She said increased competition has undermined their business.
"It's just kind of dwindling down to nothing," she said, adding that the phones at the Mogen office were scheduled to be disconnected Tuesday. Mogen didn't defend itself in court, and Rotter said it was because the company couldn't afford it.
She said the Mogen clamp is "painless and safe" when used properly. The case involving the Florida boy was "unfortunate," she said, adding that "any medical mishap is unfortunate."
In this case, a New York mohel, or Jewish ritual circumcisor, performed the operation in the baby's home, Llewellyn said. The mohel negotiated a separate settlement, the terms of which Llewellyn would not disclose.
Llewellyn won another circumcision case in 2009 over an operation at South Fulton Medical Center. In that case, which involved a baby identified only as D.P. Jr., the mother contended that the doctor who circumcised him removed too much tissue and that his pediatrician failed to respond when a nurse complained of excessive bleeding.
The tip of the penis was placed in a biohazard bag and might have been reattached if he'd gotten attention in time, Llewellyn said in 2009. His lawsuit in New York says D.P. Jr. lost a third of his glans.
The jury found that both the pediatrician and the physician who performed the circumcision were negligent, and awarded $2.3 million to the plaintiffs. South Fulton Medical Center was absolved of liability.
In Friday's decision, the court determined that Mogen had to pay for medical expenses and for the years of psychotherapy that will be needed. The boy suffers pain when he urinates, the court order says. He will eventually be able to have sex, but he is likely to be embarrassed and will likely have trouble forming "meaningful" relationships with girls, it adds. "At 3 years old, L.G. is aware that he looks different from other boys based on both his own observations and comments from other children which make him feel inferior ."