Paul Whelan

In Memoriam (1940 - 2018)


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


SGB Law shares a touching statement, remembering paul whelan

Paul was a member of Schroeter Goldmark & Bender from 1969 to 1997. Over the years, Paul established himself as one of the leading trial lawyers in Washington and was known nationally as well. He will be greatly missed, but we are thankful we had the opportunity to know him as a friend and fellow trial lawyer.

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Read Paul’s Booklet on Product Liability in Washington state

Paul was widely recognized for his groundbreaking work in product liability law. This booklet captures some of his wisdom and advice for attorney working on product liability in Washington state.

Awards & Achievements

Trial Lawyer of the Year
American Board of Trial Advocates, Washington Chapter, 2004

Listed in “Best Lawyers of America”
Best Lawyers publicatin, 2001 - 2018

Layer of the Year for Seattle Product Liability Law


Washington State Bar Association

Washington State Association for Justice

American Board of Trial Advocates

American Association for Justice

Attorneys Information Exchange Group

Federal Bar Association

Public Justice


University of Washington, J.D., 1967

University of Washington, B.A., 1962