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Vern Harkins is a successful trial lawyer dedicated to his community and his life’s work. Many of his cases have set important legal precedents, especially in the area of governmental responsibility for injury caused by dangerous prisoners and mental patients.
During his 25 years of practice, Vern has focused on representing victims of medical negligence, as well as personal injury and wrongful death accidents. Recently, he and his partner, Dan Hannula, won a $15.4-million verdict on behalf of a high-school student who was paralyzed in a diving accident.
A sense of justice and fairness motivates Vern to seek the best result possible for each person he represents. He compares the nature of the courtroom to the sports arenas where he has long competed. “Trying cases has many similar characteristics to athletics. There is a strong sense of competition that requires careful preparation and self-confidence to obtain a successful result,” he explains. “I have always enjoyed litigation and the opportunity to personally understand my clients’ needs and fears as they go through this process so that I can better represent them.”
Vern began his career as a deputy prosecuting attorney in Spokane County, where he tried cases for three years after receiving his degree from Gonzaga University Law School in 1975. He continued in private practice in Spokane until he joined Rush, Hannula, Harkins & Kyler, LLP in 1980.
Vern’s private and professional connections to the Tacoma community where he was born and raised remain strong. He was a student at Bellarmine Prep High School and his ties to the school have continued over the years where he has served as president of the alumni association and chairman of the board of directors. Vern has contributed significant amounts of time to the work of the Tacoma Pierce County Bar Association and the Washington State Bar Association. He has been a frequent speaker at various legal seminars.
For many years, Vern has coached youth sports in Tacoma/Pierce County. He remains an avid fan of local sports teams and enjoys playing golf in his spare time.
Vern is from a large Tacoma family. He and his wife, Kathleen, have three sons.