Tacoma attorney Darrell Cochran was named Trial Lawyer of the Year on Friday by the Washington State Association for Justice (WSAJ). Cochran is managing partner of Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala, PLLC. The award, named after the late Washington Supreme Court Justice Tom Chambers, honors “a lawyer who advances the art and skill of advocacy, either in trial or by training others so as to benefit humankind,” according the WSAJ.
“I’ve been really lucky to have worked for years alongside great partners and supporting staff, and the award tells us that we’ve managed to make a lasting, positive impact with the job we are doing,” Cochran said after receiving the award. “I’ve made a career out of the thing I love to do most; fight “to give a voice to the folks who would otherwise suffer silently.” Cochran grew up in Olympia, went to Olympia High School and has been an attorney practicing primarily out of the Puget Sound region since 1993.
Cochran made headlines earlier this year as lead counsel in a class-action case against MultiCare Health System and a California collection agency MultiCare hired, Hunter Donaldson. The case involved improper liens placed by Hunter Donaldson on MultiCare patients’ court settlements after they were injured due to another person’s negligence. Hunter Donaldson was not registered as a collection agency with the state and was using a fraudulent notary to file its liens with the county recorder’s office. A Pierce County judge approved a $7.5 million settlement with MultiCare and the patients affected by the improper medical services liens back in January.
The lawsuit, and the circumstances surrounding the suit, lead the Washington State Legislature to enact a bill this year which requires collection agencies to be licensed by the state before attempting to collect on medical services liens on behalf of healthcare providers. The law also requires full disclosure if medical services liens are used and mandates that a written release of lien rights be delivered to the patient when the medical bill is paid.
Also this year, Cochran received a win from the state Court of Appeals when it upheld a nearly $1.5 million jury verdict on appeal against the Olympia School District for failing to protect a student from being molested by one of the district’s school bus drivers, Gary Shafer. Since the initial lawsuit, Cochran has filed five others against the district, including the latest in January involving a special needs student who was also sexually assaulted by Shafer.