The partners at Eymann Allison Hunter Jones PS describe their firm as having a balance of plaintiff litigation, and one partner’s specialty practice of elder law and estate planning.
Established in 1999, the firm consists of four founding partners, associate Jonathan Neill, three paralegals, an office manager, and a receptionist.
While many of the cases Richard Eymann, John Allison, and Steven Jones work on involve plaintiff litigation, their colleague Carol Hunter’s specialty lies in elder law.
“Many firms do a pretty even mix of plaintiff and defense litigation. We’re unique in that 75 percent of what we do is plaintiff civil litigation,” says Allison. A former Spokane television news reporter for KXLY-TV, Allison specializes in abuse and automotive accident cases. Allison is also the only lawyer at the firm who also has a license to practice in Idaho.
The firm’s litigation practice typically focuses on cases of birth injury, medical errors or negligence, defective products, elder abuse, sexual abuse, fire loss or damage, and motor vehicle accidents.
Allison says many of the clients it represents in personal-injury cases lack the financial resources to pursue such cases, which can go on for years. To accommodate those clients, the firm works on a contingency fee basis, in which it receives a percentage of the reward recovered for the client.
“There is financial risk with these kinds of cases,” says Allison. “When clients lack the resources for litigation expenses, we are allowed to advance that money toward fighting the case, and aren’t paid until it concludes, which sometimes takes years. Lawyers can and do go bankrupt defending cases like these.”
That’s why the firm is careful to vet clients beforehand, establishing whether there is enough material to jusitfy a case, before investing.
Allison says costs can include gathering information through the discovery process and obtaining expert opinions and statements, and such expenses can sometimes run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“We can advance that money, but ultimately clients are still responsible for those costs,” he says. “If a case is lost we can’t guarantee we will pay those expenses, but lawyers won’t usually pursue their clients to recoup those costs if a case collapses.”
The partners estimate that together they see from 60 to 100 new cases a year, in addition to the 500 or so Hunter sees each year through her practice. They say Hunter’s work helps to keep business balanced during leaner times when the other lawyers’ personal injury cases haven’t yet concluded.
Hunter, who has been an estate planning attorney in Spokane County since 1993, says of the system, “It’s a model that I think works because we have been such good friends for so many years.”
She says elder law and estate planning are some of the oldest forms of business law, and as such are always in demand.
“Many of my clients are the children of elderly parents, or people who suddenly find themselves physically disabled,” she says. “Unfortunately, people are always getting injured, getting older, or passing on, so these services will always be something that is needed.”
Steven Jones confirms that between Hunter’s practice and the other partners’ cases, the firm’s annual billings vary widely.
“It all depends on the cases, how many go to trial, for how long, and how many conclude within the year,” he says. “We’re grateful to Carol for the support her work brings during those years when we have numerous cases yet to settle.”
Jones’ areas of expertise include advising and assisting business clients in negotiating contracts, and forming companies and limited liability corporations, as well as estate sales and purchases.
He says working on personal injury cases, whether large or small, is often more about helping victims to achieve a sense of justice.
“It’s not all monetary compensation. In many cases, it’s about helping victims feel their damage has been recognized and justice has been served,” says Jones.
“I have never encountered an injured client who would do it all over again just for the settlement money. No one ever says that. They’d rather not have been injured at all,” he says.
A couple of the larger cases in which the firm has represented plaintiffs include sexual abuse complaints involving the Catholic Diocese of Spokane and “downwinders” litigation related to radiation exposure from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southcentral Washington. The term “downwinder” refers to those individuals living down wind of the facility.
The firm’s eldest founding partner and lead litigator, Richard Eymann, was heavily involved in the Hanford cases, which he says the firm spent many years pursuing. It is the largest and most expensive case the firm has ever undertaken.
The firm represented about 500 plaintiffs, but Eymann says the overall litigation included some 3,000 people who claimed their health was compromised by past radioactive releases from the Hanford site, located along the Columbia River just north of Richland.
“That our clients achieved compensation and validation for their lifelong suffering caused by the needless spread of radiation made us proud to be lawyers in representing these powerless victims against the very rich and powerful,” says Eymann.
Eymann says the firm often handles severe cases of injury and abuse, and the cases can be complex. The firm’s attorneys often find themselves weighing compassion for their clients’ situation with the risk involved in taking on a case that they might lose or spend years resolving.
“We dedicate every day to their cause, and it’s hard to leave their case at the door when we go home at night,” he says. “So balancing the work demands with our own family life at home and our commitments to the many community service organizations we support is always a challenge.”
Eymann says several of the firm’s attorneys have been heavily involved with Spokane’s annual Lilac Bloomsday Run since its beginnings, as well as serving in other leadership roles for organizations within the community.
Eymann himself is a longtime runner and former president of the Lilac Bloomsday Association. He currently also coaches grade school cross country. Two of the firm’s other attorneys, Carol Hunter and Steve Jones, are members of the Lilac Bloomsday Association’s board of directors. Jones also serves on other area boards supporting Spokane’s parks, public schools and regional sports, as well as organizations such as Daybreak Youth Services and the YMCA.
In addition to its community connections, the firm also happens to operate out of one of Spokane’s more unique landmarks, the Patsy Clark Mansion at 2208 W. Pacific, in historic Browne’s Addition. Designed by famed Spokane architect Kirtland Cutter, the 1898 mansion is the former home of mining millionaire Patrick Clark.
The firm purchased the 14,000-square-foot mansion in 2003, spent a year restoring it, and moved in in 2004. The mansion’s first floor is reserved for meetings and conferences, and also is available to rent for luncheons, dinner parties, and weddings. The firm’s offices are located on the mansion’s second floor, and it uses the third floor for client file storage. Prior to moving, the firm’s offices were located downtown in the Paulsen Center.
While restoring the mansion and moving into it is something all the partners were excited and happy to work toward, they say Eymann was the driving force behind buying the building, with his wife, Susan, overseeing the restoration efforts.
“We tried to bring it back to the original as much as possible, while still accommodating the law firm,” says Eymann.
The partners say in many ways they have come to see the mansion as a part of their legacy, a way of giving back to the Spokane community.
Allison says, “We’re really proud of having taken this on. It was so damaged, but we saw the beauty in it and wanted to preserve it in the right way.”
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