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Paul Whelan-In Memoriam

All of us at Stritmatter Kessler mourn the loss of Paul. The following obituary was featured in The Seattle Times on May 4, 2018: 

It is with great sadness that we share the passing of Paul Wirth Whelan on April 13, 2018.

Paul was born on December 25, 1940 in Auburn, Washington. His father Harold Whelan started the Spokane Philharmonic which is now the Spokane Symphony and his mother Trula Polwarth Whelan was an accomplished pianist, and award winning teacher. Paul did not follow in his musical parents’ footsteps and instead became the best known plaintiff product liability attorney in the state.

Paul grew up in Spokane and graduated from Lewis and Clark High School in 1958. He then attended UW and graduated with a BA in Political Science in 1962 and from its law school in 1967. He was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity and a lifelong Husky fan.

He was a law clerk for the Hon. Robert. Finley, Chief Justice of the Washington Supreme Court 1967-1968 then became a partner at Schroeter Goldmark & Bender. In 1997 he became a founding partner of the Stritmatter Kessler Whelan firm where he practiced in its Seattle office until his retirement in 2015.

Paul was a leader of the Plaintiff’s personal injury bar in Washington state and nationally, specializing in products liability, medical negligence, asbestos litigation, and sports law. Paul and his firms took on entire industries for their unsafe products and practices. Paul received the coveted Trial Lawyer of the Year award from the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) in 2004. In 2013 he received the “Lawyer of the Year” for Seattle Products’ Liability Litigation. Paul is widely recognized as having been instrumental in creating a favorable body of case law in products liability cases in Washington.

Unlike most lawyers, Paul was known for his brilliantly short and pointed oratorical style. He fearlessly tried dozens of cases against auto manufacturers, and other large corporations whose products injured and killed the consuming public. He was one of the first lawyers in the nation to try asbestos cases – sometimes trying multiple cases at the same time in the same courthouse but in different courtrooms.

Paul was devoted to his family. He had two daughters from his first marriage, Mary Elizabeth (“Betsy”) and Tamzen Constance. As a single dad, Paul spent summers taking his daughters and their friends camping and water skiing at Lake Chelan.

In 1987, Paul married Kathryn Abbott whom he adored and always called his “beautiful bride.” Their children, Maxwell Patrick and Alexandra Leigh could always count on their dad to attend their sports games, or have parties at the house and on his boat (especially on Opening Day of Boating Season) where he would cook and share his thoughts about politics, history, travel, and good wine.

Paul was a member of the Seattle Yacht Club and passionate about boating with his family on what Kathryn lovingly referred to as his “Mistresses,” Marcene, Justine, and finally his dream boat, Duchess, all three of which were Grand Banks. These adventures included waterskiing and swimming in Lake Washington, Desolation Sound, and Princess Louisa and travels to Hawaii, Mexico and abroad. He was an avid skier at Crystal and Whistler and was an adventurous motorcyclist with a particular fondness for Harley Davidsons.

Paul is survived by his Kathryn, his wife of 30 years; children Maxwell, Alexandra and Tacy Whelan; grandchildren Maia Whelan, Cilvin Steward, Elize Hiu (Doug); great-grandchildren Taylor, Tienna, Doug Jr.; and his sister Connie Whelan.

He was preceded in death by his parents, and his beloved daughter Betsy Steward.

Paul was blessed by the wonderful care provided him by Asefash, Juana, Winnie, Michael, Yeshi, Rose, and Sharon. In addition to our caregivers, Mike Withey’s close friendship delighted Paul with moments of adventure and entertainment during his illness.

Paul’s Celebration of Life/ Memorial will be Sunday, August 19th at the Seattle Yacht Club.

In lieu of flowers we ask you give to the Princess Louisa Society, Children’s Hospital, or New Beginnings. Sign Paul’s on-line Guest Book at



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  • Washington State Bar Association
  • Washington State Association for Justice (formerly WA State Trial Lawyers Association)
  • American Board of Trial Advocates
  • American Association for Justice (formerly Association of Trial Lawyers of America)
  • Attorneys Information Exchange Group
  • Federal Bar Association
  • Public Justice (formerly Trial Lawyers for Public Justice)
Awards & Achievements
  • 2013 "Lawyer of the Year" for Seattle Product Liability Litigation as a plaintiffs attorney
  • Listed in "The Best Lawyers in America, 2001 to present
  • 10 out of 10 AVVO rating
  • Trial Lawyer of the Year, American Board of Trial Advocates, Washington Chapter, 2004
  • Super Lawyer, Washington Law & Politics
  • Law Clerk to Chief Justice Robert C.Finley, Washington State Supreme Court,1967-68
  • Rated AV by Martindale-Hubbell
Published Articles
Subrogation and the rights of the client
  • Closing Arguments, CLE Boot Camp, December 2003
  • "Product Liability/Crashworthiness/Causation", WSBA, November 2003
  • Expert Witnesses, WSTLA, February 2003
  • Closing Arguments, CLE Boot Camp, December 2002
  • Masters in Trial, ABOTA, October 2002
  • Crashworthiness, AIEG/WSTLA , Barcelona, September 2002
  • Fuel Systems, AIEG, September 2002
  • Damages, WSTLA, March 2002
  • Closing Arguments, CLE Boot Camp, January 2002
  • Expert Witness Presentation, UW Law School Mock Trial, January 2000
  • Useful Safe Life, WSTLA Luvera Seminar, July 1999
  • "Product Liability , Contributory fault in crashworthiness cases", May 1999
  • Pretrial Investigation,WSTLA,September 1998
  • "Discovery in Occupant Restraint Cases", AIEG - San Francisco, September 1998
Representative Matters
Ruiz-Guzman v. Amvac Chemical Corp
(2008) Established the right, under the Washington Product Liability Act, to rely on an alternative product to show that the challenged ...
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Jaramillo v. Ford Motor Co.
(2004) The surviving husband and children of a mother and daughter who died when the Ford Explorer the mother was ...
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Davis v. Northwest Permanente, PC; Kaiser Foundation Hospital and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Northwest dba Kaiser Permanente
(March 2012) Confidential settlement for failure to timely diagnose Merkel cell carcinoma in a 50 year-old woman. The physician discarded ...
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Weller v. Confidential HMO and its family practice physician
(May 11, 2007), $1,000,000 settlement for failure to inform plaintiff of continual rise in PSA levels over 9 years in ...
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Ratigan v. Central Building, LLC
(September 2004) $1,575,000 settlement for client who suffered a brain injury in a fall from a window ...
Read More
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