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'87 law behind ruling to dismiss circumcision suit

An Alabama law passed to rein in healthcare costs nearly three decades ago was at the heart of a judge's decision to dismiss a lawsuit over what a man claims was a botched circumcision.

Jefferson County Circuit Judge Jim Hughey III, during a hearing last week, threw out the civil lawsuit filed in July by Johnny Lee Banks Jr. and his wife after ruling it lacked details required by the Alabama Medical Liability Act.

The law, passed in 1987 during a time when doctors claimed lawsuits were making it impossible to practice medicine because of increasing costs, imposed rules that made it more difficult for plaintiffs to win malpractice suits.Aside from limiting doctor's payouts on malpractice awards, the law requires that patients who file malpractice suits provide details about the "date, time, and place" of specific acts by medical professionals. The judge agreed with defense claims that Banks didn't do that.

Jay Juliano, an attorney who specializes in malpractice cases and represents the hospital that Banks sued, said the law was clear and the suit was obviously deficient.

"It's unusual to see one thrown out so quickly on (that)," Juliano, who represents Princeton Baptist Medical Center in Birmingham, said in an interview Friday.

Defense lawyers chided the couple's attorney, John Graves, for filing the lawsuit without reviewing medical records. Graves argued that he filed the suit quickly because he fear Banks might die.

"This is specific as we can get," he told the judge.

Hughey didn't rule directly on Bank's claims that two doctors, their employers and the hospital are to blame for what he says was a surgical procedure that resulted in the amputation of his penis. Instead, Hughey said Bank's attorney could refile the case within 30 days and provide specifics about alleged procedure, which the defense claims didn't even happen.

Defense lawyers said they expect Banks to lose again if he goes back to court.

Banks and his wife last month sued Princeton Baptist Medical Center plus Drs. Michael Bivins and Alan Aikens and their employers. Banks claims he awoke from what was supposed to be a routine circumcision in June to realize his penis was gone.

Defense lawyers filed sworn statements from two nurses who said Banks had a circumcision at the hospital in February, months before he claimed in the suit, but there was no record of any amputation.

Testimony showed Banks underwent two surgical procedures at the hospital in June but neither involved his genitals. Juliano said the man continues as a patient of Princeton Baptist Medical Center despite the lawsuit.

"If he comes back today he'll be welcomed with open arms," he said.
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