Simply the Best
Simeon Osborn lands a record settlement for a man injured by a King County deputy
Published in 2011 Washington Super Lawyers Magazine on June 21, 2011
One of Sim Osborn’s recent prospective clients was a guy who played on his boyhood Little League team. Another knew his name from high school.
It seems that everyone who has met Osborn remembers him.
“There weren’t a whole lot of lawyers coming out of my neighborhood,” quips Osborn, who grew up in a blue-collar neighborhood in Shoreline. He played a lot of sports, grew up in a big family—with three brothers and a sister—and, even back then, was the kind of guy people came to when they had a problem.
Today, at 53, Osborn is a successful personal injury attorney at Osborn Machler, and recently won the largest individual settlement on record from King County—$10 million for a man badly injured in a run-in with a sheriff’s deputy. Osborn has built a big-league reputation for handling injury and wrongful death cases. But his modest roots still play a major role in his attitude toward life and work.
With personal injury cases, “you get to represent people who can’t normally afford lawyers,” he says. “It’s not usually the doctor or lawyer—though that happens. The guy who gets hurt usually is the mail carrier or the milkman, the lady who works at the dry cleaners, and they can’t afford to pay a lawyer by the hour. Those are the kinds of people you get to help. It’s a good deal.”
The case of Chris Harris and his wife, Sarah, began in 2009, when a witness mistakenly identified Harris as being involved in an alleged assault at a Belltown convenience store. A deputy chased Harris, who ran, and the officer slammed him into a wall, leaving him paralyzed and brain-injured. The deputies were not wearing standard uniforms, and a paramedic who treated Harris, then 29, at the scene testified that he had not initially realized they were officers.
Harris’ uncle once worked at the Columbia Tower Club and remembered seeing Osborn there, which is how he became involved. Osborn rushed to the hospital from his son’s baseball practice, still in jeans and a sweatshirt. He remembered “this horrible, horrible scene,” with Harris in a coma and Sarah saying that doctors were asking about removing his life support.
The case went to court, and in the middle of the trial King County offered the $10 million settlement. “At that point it became: ‘Is the risk worth the reward?’” Osborn says.
An even larger jury award could have been tied up in appeals or overturned. This way, Osborn says, “They would get their money right away, and it would take care of them right away. That was just one less burden for Sarah to bear.”
In some cases, Osborn gets an additional reward: making sure there are no future victims. Several years ago, a number of children died or were badly injured after swallowing toys containing powerful small magnets. In addition to the financial settlement Osborn won in that case, the toys were taken off the market, then completely redesigned.
Osborn knew from a young age that he wanted to be a trial lawyer, even though he didn’t meet one until he was in college, at Whitman in Walla Walla. “When I was a kid, you always looked up to doctors and lawyers,” he says.
He went on to the University of Puget Sound’s law school (now Seattle University School of Law), clerking as a student for the attorney general’s consumer protection division. But Osborn took on any work that would pay his way through college and law school: He worked security three nights a week, from midnight to 8 a.m. He lived in a retirement home as night manager. He was a hot-tar roofer.
Osborn’s fortunes had improved by the time he met his wife, former KIRO-TV anchor Monica Hart, at a charity bachelor auction. Osborn struck up a conversation with Hart’s grandmother, winning her endorsement as “that nice boy.” Hart didn’t bid on him—she was the emcee—but they began dating. The Kirkland residents have been married for 19 years and have a son in high school. Osborn jokes that their son’s name, Courtland, came because of all the time he spent in court during his wife’s pregnancy.
His life is more balanced now. Osborn has been involved in sports his whole life, and remembers how his own dad worked too hard making ends meet to attend more than a few Little League games. “I remember saying to him, ‘Why are you so tired? All you do is drive a truck,’” Osborn says. Then, at 19, he got a job at the company where his dad once worked, unloading semis. “I’d come home and I’d just be exhausted. The older guys, the bosses, would say, ‘Oh, you should have seen your old man do this.’
“Now I know why he was so tired.”
Over the years, Osborn has coached youth football, and served on the Providence Hospital foundation board and the Kirkland Boys & Girls Club board of trustees.
“I know a lot of lawyers who live to work, and that’s their whole life,” he says. “It’s a big part of mine, but I have a life besides the law.”