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Jury Awards $2.3 Million for Botched CircumcisionA Georgia jury on Friday awarded a 4-year-old boy and his mother $2.3 million in damages from an injury the boy suffered during a circumcision when he was an infant. The jury laid the blame on the obstetrician who performed the circumcision and the pediatrician who treated the child later. A plaintiffs lawyer in the case said lawyers for the defendants struck men from the jury, which wound up including 11 women.
Daily Report2009-03-31 12:00:00 AM
A Fulton County, Ga., State Court jury on Friday awarded a 4-year-old boy and his mother $2.3 million in damages from an injury the boy suffered during a circumcision when he was an infant.
The jury awarded $1.8 million to the boy and $500,000 to the mother, whose name the Fulton County Daily Report is not reporting to protect her son's privacy.
The jury did not find the hospital, Tenet South Fulton Medical Center, negligent. It laid the blame on two doctors, Haiba Sonyika, the obstetrician who performed the circumcision, and Cheryl J. Kendall, the pediatrician who treated the child later.
Represented by David J. Llewellyn of Johnson & Ward and Craig T. Jones of Edmond Jones Lindsay, the plaintiffs convinced the jury that Sonyika cut off a portion of the boy's penis in the circumcision -- a part that could have been re-attached if the pediatrician, Kendall, had acted quickly enough to come to the boy's aid.
Kendall's attorneys, Roger E. Harris and Shannon C. Shipley of Owen, Gleaton, Egan, Jones & Sweeney, are "evaluating appeal options," according to Harris. "We believe the verdict against Dr. Kendall was unjustified and not supported by the evidence against her," Harris said. "We believe there were errors in the case."
Sonyika's attorney, criminal defense lawyer Tony L. Axam of Axam & Adams, was unavailable for comment. An assistant said he was in court.
Daniel J. Huff of Huff Powell & Bailey, who with colleague Camille N. Jarman successfully represented the hospital, said the damages levied against the doctors were "much higher than we expected it to be."
Huff and Jarman were able to persuade the jury to find the hospital not liable by asserting that the doctor who performed the circumcision was not an agent of South Fulton Medical Center but was working on-call for a group of obstetricians.
Llewellyn, who has been representing victims of wrongful circumcision and genital injury since 1995, said the verdict was the largest he has ever won, though "I asked for $5 million," he said.
Llewellyn and Jones asserted that the child's injuries will result in permanent disfigurement and also possible medical problems that may require surgery. They asked for damages to pay for psychological counseling in the amount awarded to the mother -- $500,000. The bulk of the damages -- $1.8 million -- was based on a per-day formula for the child's life expectancy.
Repeating his remarks to the jury during the two-week trial before Judge Diane E. Bessen, Llewellyn said, "From the time he realizes the difference until the time he sinks into the grave, there will not be a day, an hour or probably a minute that he does not think about his deformity."
Jones said lawyers for the defendants struck men from the jury, which wound up with 11 women. "The strategy of the defense side was that men would be more sensitive to a penis injury. My experience has been that men aren't as sensitive about anything," Jones said. "I figured if you have one man on the jury, he can explain to the women -- if they don't know -- how important a penis is to a man's self-image."