Top Lawyers 2008

Gretchen L. OlsenThe Competitor

Gretchen L. Olsen: Plunkett Cooney, Petoskey
The Brief: Detroit College of Law, J.D., 1984
Practice Areas: Civil Rights, Insurance Law, Medical Liability, Municipal Law, Professional Liability.

You have a true love of litigation.

I’m a pretty competitive person and that is what drew me to that area of practice. For the most part, I enjoy the battle. However, the practice of law is changing toward more efforts to settle cases prior to trial through mediations or arbitrations. Given the chance, I still like to try cases.

You represent business against individuals in most cases that you handle. Why are you drawn to the defense point of view?

On whole, I’m a conservative person and the defense side suits my personality. I go about my cases believing that most people do the right thing or at least try to. A good share of the time I see situations that simply could not be anticipated or avoided.

One of your seminal cases illustrates your point. In the case, the estate of a drowned man sued the city claiming that there was prevention of public safety to save him. Were there factors in that rescue that could not be anticipated?

Absolutely. The rescue team did everything they could to save him while putting their own lives at risk. Unfortunately, they were not able to get to him in time and he didn’t survive.

Tell me about your role as a defense lawyer in terms of medical malpractice suits.

These cases are complex—from the standpoint of learning about the medicine behind a procedure and figuring out how to explain it to lay people. I find it fascinating. Doctors, like lawyers, aren’t perfect. We all try to do the very best job we can.