Hutchison sprints away from personal injury lawyer label, falls into hole, keeps digging



Maybe it’s frontrunner, gubernatorial anointee arrogance. Maybe it’s polling that shows him well ahead. Maybe he doesn’t know what his own law firm does.

But state Sen. Mark Hutchison’s sprint away from the “personal injury lawyer” label was at first comical, but now borders on the pathological. Ordinarily, I would chuckle at this kind of gaffe. But because Hutchison has insisted on dissembling about this area of his practice, which his partner boasts about on his firm's web site, it is worthy of more attention.

“Recently, we have started paying more attention to personal injury work,” Todd Moody, an attorney at Hutchison & Steffen, says in a video on the firm’s site under a section headlined: ‘Personal Injury” (It is embedded below.)

I’m not sure what this says about Hutchison or his campaign. Judge for yourself:

This first came up during a debate taped Monday on “Nevada Newsmakers” in which Sue Lowden, defending herself against that pesky 2010 campaign debt issue, said:

“I would say that as a personal injury attorney you always go back and to the doctor, to the clinics or the hospitals and renegotiate many of the fees that many of the payments that are due….”

Hutchison: “I’ve been called a lot of things in my life but not a personal injury lawyer. I'm not a personal injury lawyer.  I'm a defense lawyer who defends who represents businesses and corporations throughout Nevada…"

It must be, judging by Hutchison's wry retort, a very shameful thing in the legal business to be called a personal injury attorney. Or, perhaps, work with them?

Lowden then follows up by asking Hutchison about “your attorneys” negotiating and ultimately asking him if he employs personal injury lawyers. “No, I don’t employ personal injury lawyers. We are a business litigation, business defense law firm and we represent businesses.”


Hutchison & Steffen has a wide-ranging practice, and it does – repeat DOES – employ attorneys who puff out their chests about their personal injury practice. Hutchison simply is splitting hairs to say he doesn’t employ them, arguing I suppose that they do other work, too, and that he has never done so.

Hutchison’s campaign spokeswoman, Mari St. Martin, told me the candidate “feels he was completely honest in the debate.”

And, she added: “Mark is not a personal injury lawyer. His firm does not hire or have attorneys who are solely or primarily dedicated to that legal practice on behalf of plaintiffs. The firm has a broad legal practice, and some attorneys' practices include on occasion representing clients in personal injury matters. But these matters are incidental and not the primary focus of their practice within the firm.”  

Incidental? Oh?

From the firm's site:

 The Law Firm of Hutchison & Steffen offers a personal injury practice which carefully selects the representation of individuals who have suffered personal injuries or damages by motor vehicles, bad faith, wrongful death, and medical malpractice. The Firm has extensive experience in litigating major personal injury actions to successful conclusion.

Extensive experience?

Now, I’m not expert on words, but “extensive experience” would seem to indicate that, well, they do it A LOT.

But don’t believe me. Listen to what the Steffen part of Hutchison & Steffen says:  “We know how to win when a client is injured in an accident,” John Steffen brags in a site video. (His video is below, too.)

This is so embarrassing for the man anointed by the governor. Why not just say, “It’s part of my business. But we are mostly a litigation firm.”

I think I know why. Maybe it’s because PI attorneys often are thought of as ambulance-chasing sleazeballs. By some people, I mean.

"They are not advertising it," St. Martin told me, all but proving my assumption. "They are not putting up billboards."

No, they are only promoiting it on the firm's web site, so it depends on what the definition of the word "advertising" is.

"He does not seek out and hire personal injury lawyers," St. Martin said. So, I'm sorry, Glen Lerner and Ed Bernstein, your dreams of landing a job at Hutchison & Steffen are dashed.

I shall allow the overseer of Team Hutchoval to put it better. Here's what Pete Ernaut told the Associated Press about Bernstein, perhaps Nevada's most well-known PI attorney, during the U.S. Senate race 14 years ago when he was running John Ensign's campaign:

“A personal injury attorney with a pony tail would rank in the rural counties somewhere between claim jumper and cattle rustler."

Hutchison doesn’t have the pony tail. But if the profile fits….





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