In September 2018 a four-year-old boy received $31 million from an Atlanta jury for a botched circumcision that amputated part of his penis. This is the largest known legal award ever for a genital mutilation case. A list of all known awards to date is available here.
The plaintiff in this case has a last name of Willis. In an apparent yet odd coincidence, the largest victory prior to September 2018, also a legal settlement of a case also in Georgia in 1991, also involved an apparently unrelated plaintiff named Willis.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
September 21, 2018
By Joshua Sharpe
A Clayton County jury on Friday awarded a boy about $31 million for a botched circumcision, a spokeswoman for his family’s law firm said.
It isn’t yet clear which of the defendants will have to pay and how much because records weren’t immediately available. The child’s mother, Stacie Willis, didn’t want to comment Friday night.
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 is also physical pain from chronic scabbing.
Defense attorney Terrell W. Benton, who represents the nurse midwife and doctor who have 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.
But Neal Pope, representing Willis, aimed far higher. He 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,” said Pope.
Pope told the jury he has struggled for decades to explain pain in words — physical and mental pain.
The best he has 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 bleeding boy home with his mother, Pope said. Had any of the medical professionals sent the child to an emergency room with the severed tissue, Pope said it could have been reattached, which might have limited the problems.
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 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, Pope said, to accept the boy’s deformity.