(1925 - 2012)
Dan Sullivan was the pioneer in Washington State bringing medical malpractice cases. He worked to make sure that all injured people had a voice before our courts, where the everyday person was "equal" to the largest corporation or hospital - leading the way to take the stigma away from lawyers who took on the cases of people injured by bad medicine and unsafe products. Dan was a recognized trial and appellate lawyer. His appellate work resulted in numerous foundational changes in the common law, including the establishment of corporate liability of hospitals, failure to obtain informed consent, the tort of outrage, and the abolishment of parent-child immunity. He was fond of saying "The law is never settled until it is settled right."
Dan was born in Iowa in 1925. He told jurors he was "just an Iowa farm boy," and he possessed good ol' midwestern goodness. He attended the University of Iowa on a football scholarship at age 17. His education was interrupted by military service in 1943 when he served with the infantry in Normandy and throughout Europe. After his discharge from active duty, he re-entered college and earned a degree in Labor Economics in 1951, followed by admission to the University of Iowa School of Law. In 1953 he was recalled to active duty during the Korean conflict, serving for two years in France.
His military service completed, Dan and his family moved to Seattle where he continued his education at the University of Washington School of Law earning his Juris Doctor in 1955. He then began his personal injury practice that spanned 50 year.
Following is a Message Board post from Paul Luvera upon hearing of his death which helps describe to us his friend Dan:
"Despite all of the above accomplishments, Dan often spoke of the fact that his proudest accomplishments were the hundreds and hundreds of everyday people whose lives he was able to make a difference in when they needed an advocate to fight for them against big medicine, big business or large drug companies, or when unjust laws needed to be changed, and he was able to effectuate that change via the appellate courts. Two of my favorite stories about Dan during the 30 years he has been in my life were: (1) when he chartered a plane, with Santa on board, to deliver a plane full of Christmas presents to a down-on-their luck family he represented; and (2) when he purchased braces for a young medical malpractice client of his because his family could not afford to do so. Both gestures resulted in bar complaints because either the defense lawyers or their experts knew that a lawyer was not supposed to personally purchase "gifts" for their clients. Dan's response to the Bar Association was "If you want my license for being human and caring about people then it is not worth the paper it is printed onand I'll bet the newspapers will love to read about how you came after me for giving a family Christmas or a young boy leg braces so he could walk! - so if you want to come after me, come" He never heard any more from the Bar. But, that is the kind of gesture he often did for others, without fanfare."
Dan was a gentleman, an intellectual philosopher, was witty, generous, and commanded the respect of judges and his fellow lawyers.