Sen. Santorum's wife wins lawsuit

Saturday, December 11, 1999
By Jack Torry, Post-Gazette National Bureau

WASHINGTON -- A Virginia jury last night awarded the wife of Sen. Rick Santorum $350,000 in damages after she charged in a lawsuit that a Virginia chiropracter's negligence caused her permanent back pain.

Deliberating more then six hours after a four-day trial in which Santorum, R-Pa., testified, the Fairfax County Circuit Court jury unanimously ruled for Karen Santorum. She had sought $500,000 against Dr. David Dolberg of Virginia, because of pain from his 1996 treatment of her.

"Mrs. Santorum has been vindicated," said her Pittsburgh attorney Heather Heidelbaugh. "She was injured permanently through the actions of a chiropractor who acted negligently."

Heidelbaugh, with the Pittsburgh law firm of Burns, White & Hickton, said Mrs. Santorum has "permanent back pain" and "permanent numbness" in one leg.

Throughout the trial, Santorum aides declined to provide details. Yesterday, they issued a brief statement from the senator saying: "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."

But Roll Call, a newspaper that covers Capitol Hill, reported that Santorum testified Monday that his wife might not be able to actively campaign for his re-election next year because of her pain. "She has always been intricately involved in my campaigns," he testified.

Democrats aim next year to strongly challenge Santorum, first elected in the 1994 GOP landslide. Rep. Ron Klink, D-Murrysville; former Rep. Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky, D-Montgomery County; state Sen. Allyson Schwartz, D-Philadelphia, and former state Labor Secretary Tom Foley are among Democrats expected to compete in a party primary next year.

The Santorums maintain a Penn Hills, Pa., residence but have a home in Herndon, Va., a Washington suburb.