Ex-official joins doctors' legal fight

By BOB OKON Staff writer

Illinois doctors have hired Theodore Olson, former solicitor general of the United States, to aid them in a legal showdown over the future of tort reform.

As solicitor general for President Bush from 2001 to 2004, Olson supervised government litigation in the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Illinois State Medical Society and the affiliated ISMIE Mutual Insurance Company announced Monday that Olson will lead their defense of the state cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice litigation. The caps became law in 2005 but were expected to eventually face a court challenge. A Cook County lawsuit filed in November has been cited by both doctors and trial attorneys as the case that will test whether punitive damages can be limited in medical malpractice lawsuits.

The Illinois Trial Lawyers Association contends the caps violate the Illinois constitution and note that such limits on damages were struck down twice by the state Supreme Court.

In a statement issued Monday, Dr. Harold Jensen, chairman of ISMIE Mutual, said Olson’s “vast appellate experience in both the federal and state arenas will be a huge asset in affirming the constitutionality of these essential reforms.”

Both sides expect that the Cook County case will eventually be appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court. The lawsuit alleges that a botched delivery at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in Melrose Park in October 2005 left Abigaile LeBron with severe brain damage.
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