Jury awards boy $30 million in botched circumcision; award could increase

A jury in Clayton County, Georgia has awarded a boy $30 million for a botched circumcision, and the award could rise even higher as deliberations continue.

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The verdict came down in the first phase of deliberations Friday, and the jury is expected to deliberate over whether to grant punitive damages, according to state court officials.

The boy was 18-days-old in October 2013 when the flick of a knife at Riverdale's Life Cycle Pediatrics severed part of his penis and set into motion a lifetime of issues. The plaintiff's attorneys said the child, whose name is being withheld, will suffer mental anguish for years because of his deformity. There's also physical pain from chronic scabbing.

It isn’t yet clear which of the plaintiffs will have to pay and how much.

Defense attorney Terrell W. Benton, who represents the nurse midwife and doctor who’ve been found liable, had told the jury Thursday that $1 million should cover the boy’s medical expenses as well as the the costs of long-term therapy and suffering.

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But Neal Pope, representing the child’s mother, Stacie Willis, put a picture of Lebron James up on a projector screen, saying the basketball player made $99 million in three years, while pointing out that life expectancy estimates suggest the boy might live another 69 years.

"I think the case is a $100 million case," Pope said.

Pope told the jury he’s struggled for decades to explain pain in words — physical and mental pain.

The best he’s come up with is: “Pain is a window into hell.”

The boy’s pain began when his mother brought him to the clinic so nurse midwife Melissa Jones could perform the circumcision.

With an accidental slip, she severed the tip of the child’s penis, Pope said. Dr. Brian Register, who like Jones has been found liable, called the clinic’s owner, Anne Sigouin to alert her. Jones called the boy’s pediatrician, Dr. Abigail Kamishlian of Daffodil Pediatric and Family Medical. Sigouin and Kamishlian both said they weren’t made aware of the full extent of the injury.

No one recommended emergency surgery. Jones and Register left the severed tissue in a refrigerator and sent the mother home with the bleeding boy, Pope said. Had any of the medical professionals sent the child to an emergency room with the severed tissue, Pope said it could’ve been reattached, which might’ve limited the problems.

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Jones, Register, Sigouin's Life Cycle Pediatrics and Life Cycle OB/GYN, Kamishlian and Daffodil Pediatric and Family Medical are all defendants in the suit. Jones and Register are the only ones who have already been found liable, but the plaintiff asked the jury to make all of them pay.

Willis has said she had to insert an instrument into her son’s penis three times a day to prevent it from closing after the circumcision. He had surgeries in Minnesota and Massachusetts, which attorneys on both sides agreed have made it easier for him to urinate and, according to one of the doctors, open the possibility that he could have children one day, though tests must be done around puberty to see if he needs more surgery.

Defense attorney Benton disputed any notion the nurse midwife and doctor at the clinic didn’t take what happened seriously: “What evidence is there they didn’t care about (him)?”

Pope focused on what he said the the boy has endured — and will endure — the rest of his life because of the defendants’ failures: the embarrassment once he gets older and tries to find a partner.

It will take a special person, he said, to accept the boy's deformity.

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