10-year erection helps man earn USD 400,000
Updated: 2006-06-28 11:41

A former handyman has won more than $400,000 in a lawsuit over a penile implant that has given him a 10-year erection.

Charles "Chick" Lennon, 68, received the steel and plastic implant in 1996, about two years before the impotence drug Viagra went on the market. The Dura-II is designed to allow impotent men to position the penis upward for sex, then lower it.

But Lennon can't position his penis downward. He can no longer hug people, ride a bike, swim or wear bathing trunks because of the pain and embarrassment, and wears a fanny pack across his front to hide his condition. He has become a recluse and is uncomfortable being around his grandchildren, his lawyer said.

In 2004, a jury awarded him $750,000. A judge called that excessive and reduced it to $400,000. On Friday, the Rhode Island Supreme Court affirmed that award in a ruling that turned on a procedural matter.

"I don't know any man who for any amount of money would want to trade and take my client's life," said Jules D'Alessandro, Lennon's attorney. "He's not a whole person."

A lawyer representing both Dura-II manufacturer Dacomed Corp. and the company's insurer declined to comment. Dacomed maintained that nothing was wrong with the implant. It filed for bankruptcy after the lawsuit was filed.

Lennon cannot get the implant removed because of health problems, including open-heart surgery, his lawyer said. Impotence drugs could not help Lennon even if he were able to have the device taken out because the drugs affect tissue that was removed to install the Dura-II, D'Alessandro said.

The implant consists of a series of plastic plates strung together with steel surgical wire, almost like a roll of wrapped coins. Springs press against the plates, creating enough surface tension to simulate an erection, D'Alessandro said.

An expert testified for Lennon at trial that the problem was caused because the springs weren't set properly or the surface of the plates allowed too much friction, D'Alessandro said.

Implants have become less common since Viagra and other impotence drugs were approved, said Dr. Theodore Ongaro, a clinical urologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston . He said most patients prefer swallowing a pill to surgery. Even when implants were more popular, they were a treatment of last resort, he said.

Dacomed was later acquired by a California company whose sales dropped when Viagra was introduced on the market. The company filed for bankruptcy the following year.