Columbus attorney Neal Pope talks about $31 million jury verdict
A botched circumcision case handled by a Columbus law firm and its 79-year-old lead attorney resulted in a $31 million medical malpractice verdict late last week in Clayton County State Court.
A jury made the award to Stacie Willis and her 4-year-old son, referred to as Baby D due to privacy reasons, after the two-week trial. Neal Pope of Pope McGlamry P.C. was the lead attorney for the plaintiffs.
It is the largest verdict that Pope has received in his lengthy and successful career.
“I have had larger settlements,” Pope said. “This is the largest jury verdict and let me tell you why. It’s hard to harm one individual for this kind of money. Let’s face it, it’s hard to hurt somebody or kill somebody 30-million dollars worth. ... This is a hard concept to sell to a jury, but we did.”
Pope worked out of the firm’s Atlanta office for weeks leading up to the trial in front of State Court Judge Shalonda Jones-Parker. The $31 million award includes $780,000 for past and future medical expenses, as well as $30 million in past, present and future pain and suffering, and will help provide counseling and support for Baby D to handle the trauma throughout his childhood and adulthood.
The defendants were Melissa Jones, Dr. Brian Register, Anne Sigouin, Life Cycle OB/GYN, LLC, Life Cycle Pediatrics, LLC, Dr. Abigail Kamishlian and Daffodil Pediatric and Family Medical Services LLC.
The boy, now almost 5, had a circumcision 18 days after he was born in October 2013. It was performed by Jones, a certified nurse midwife, in October 2013 at Life Cycle OB/GYN in Riverdale. The end of the child’s penis was caught in the Mogen clamp, causing the tip of the glans to be amputated, Pope said. Register, an OB/GYN and supervising physician, was then called in to help stop the hemorrhaging from the end of Baby D’s penis.
“The piece they cut off could have been reattached,” Pope said during an interview at his Columbus office on Wednesday. “We had the head of pediatric urology at Georgetown, Dr. David Gibbons, who has been there 40-something years, come down and testify for us. And he testified that he had reattached two of these and both of them were successful This is a very rare occurrence.”
The clinic’s owner, Anne Sigouin, who also owns Life Cycle Pediatrics , was called for assistance, the release stated. “Rather than provide critical information, Sigouin advised Dr. Register and Nurse Jones to call the boy’s pediatrician, Dr. Abigail Kamishlian. Dr. Kamishlian advised that Mrs. Willis should take her child home and go to the emergency department if the bleeding re-started.”
The plaintiffs argued that none of the medical professionals informed Stacie Willis of the amputation or that the severed glans tissue had been preserved in a saline solution and stored in the lab refrigerator at Life Cycle. Multiple expert witnesses testified that a pediatric surgeon could have successfully reattached the tissue, if the procedure had been performed within 6-12 hours after the amputation.
The injury will result in lifelong complications for the boy, Pope said.
“I got to know the kid and I got to know what he’s facing,” Pope said. “... The head of the penis, that tissue is unique to the penis. There is no other tissue in the body like it and nobody will give you any because they don’t want to part with it. You can’t reattach that tissue if you don’t have it. So, they had to go take a section of tissue from underneath his lip and attach it.”
The Pope McGlamry trial team included MJ Blakely, Jay Hirsch, Kim Johnson, Caroline McGlamry and Courtney Mohammadi. Jonathan Johnson of Atlanta was co-counsel.
At an age when many attorneys are retired, Pope continues to practice.
“I told the jury that I will be 80 years old in January,” Pope said. “They kind of took a look back, ‘Like what the heck are you doing here.’ And as soon as I saw that look, I asked myself the same question.”
The care will likely be appealed by the defense, Pope said.