Huffpost Politics

Rick Santorum's Wife Karen Sued Doctor For $500,000, Despite Senator's Calls For Tort Reform

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RICK AND KAREN SANTORUM
AP

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum has advocated capping medical malpractice awards at $250,000, but in 1999, his wife sued her doctor over a back injury and asked for twice that amount

As ABC News reports, Santorum's wife, Karen, sued a Virginia-based chiropractor for half-a-million dollars for allegedly bungling a spinal adjustment.

The suit charged that in November 1996, Karen saw Dr. David Dolberg for a spinal alignment, according to an article by Roll Call on Dec. 13, 1999. The adjustment, however, was performed improperly and resulted in a herniated disk that caused her physical pain and emotional suffering, and required surgery and multiple doctors' visits, she alleged.

She sued for $500,000, despite the fact that her medical bills totaled approximately $18,800.

While the jury awarded Karen $350,000, a judge later reduced the amount to $175,000.

By the time of the lawsuit, then-Sen. Santorum had taken up the cause of tort reform, twice sponsoring or co-sponsoring bills limiting the non-economic awards for pain and suffering that a plaintiff could seek to $250,000.

A significant part of what the Santorums were concerned about at the time of the lawsuit was that Karen would not be able to help the senator's re-election campaign, as she had done in the past.

Roll Call reported on Jan. 10, 2000, that the senator had testified that his wife had "trouble walking, bending and lifting and has suffered humiliation from weight gain associated with her injury."

"We have to go out and do a lot of public things. She wants to look nice, so it's really difficult," said Santorum, according to the 1999 Roll Call piece.

Santorum also testified that it would be tough for Karen to go knocking on doors "because of her physical limitations and the poor self-image."

"She has always been intricately involved in my campaigns," Santorum said, explaining that he and his wife "knocked on 20,000 doors together" during his previous campaign.

When asked about the apparent contradiction after the verdict, Santorum told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette on Dec. 11, 1999, "The court proceedings are a personal family matter. I will not be offering any further public comments, other than that I am not a party to the suit. But I am fully supportive of my wife."

ABC News approached the senator five years later, and he further explained, "Of course I'm going to support my wife in her endeavors. That doesn't necessarily mean that I agree with everything that she does."

He added that he still believed in medical malpractice caps, but he could see raising the limit above his previous number of $250,000.

"I guess I could answer that in two ways," he said. "Number one is that I've supported caps. I've been very clear that I am not wedded at all to a $250,000 cap and I've said publicly repeatedly, and I think probably that is somewhat low, and that we need to look at what I think is a cap that is a little bit higher than that."

On the campaign trail in Iowa last fall, theDes Moines Regsiter reported that Santorum continued to push the idea that he would be a tort-reform president, even if it made him unpopular with Washington lobbyists.

"I am a big tort-reform guy. The trial lawyers association went after me in a big way in all five of my elections. They would not be a big fan of me and I would be in favor of reforming tort laws," he said.

More on Santorum's 2012 campaign:

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