Insurer of trial attorneys is broke

by Ann Knef |
Jan. 18, 2005, 9:10am

Kenneth Printen, M.D.

Kevin Conway

A mass exodus of trial attorneys leaving the state is not likely, laments the head of the Illinois State Medical Society (ISMS), even though the Association of Trial Attorneys Assurance Mutual (ATLA Mutual) has been declared insolvent.

In a press release issued Jan. 17, Kenneth J. Printen, M.D. said that the insurer--which protects lawyers in legal liability cases--is liquidating its assets after admitting financial failure.

"The irony of ATLA's failure to run an insurance company, and the comparisons to Illinois' medical litigation crisis, will likely be lost on trial attorneys," Printen said.

"Unfortunately, ATLA Mutual's failure will not result in an exodus of personal injury attorneys from Illinois."

According to the release, since 2001, ATLA Mutual had been in "voluntary run-off" and was no longer writing insurance coverage. In October 2004, after the Illinois Department of Insurance found that ATLA had insufficient assets to cover claims, ATLA Mutual's board of directors signed a consent order to liquidate.

An ISMS spokesperson, Kelley Elwood, said that even though the Department of Insurance report is three months old, the ISMS just found out about it.

"Illinois trial lawyers have contended that liability insurers are reaping huge profits, yet their own insurer is the latest casualty in the very market they scrutinize," Printen said.

Kevin Conway, president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, claims that problems faced by the state's largest medical malpractice insurer, ISMIE, have more to do with a bail out of one its top executives.

"Apparently, there is an effort to hide news stories reporting that ISMIE Mutual's Chief Operating Officer, Donald Udstuen, plead guilty to taking bribes," Conway said.

Conway noted that the Chicago Sun Times reported that "after his indictment and two months before his plea of guilt he was paid a $5 million dollar figure by ISMIE.

"Following the payment, ISMIE raised rates on doctors in Illinois to recoup their losses," Conway said.

He added that Udstuen's name "is surfacing again because of his connection to the corruption trial of former Governor George Ryan."

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Chicago Sun-Times Illinois Trial Lawyers Association

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