On the Pulse…Our Pittsburgh Office: A Quarter Century of Progress

Defense Digest, Vol. 24, No. 1, March 2018

By Scott G. Dunlop, Esq.*

This coming summer, our firm will quietly acknowledge a significant anniversary that will escape the notice of the rest of the world. Twenty-five years ago, the first state-wide litigation practice in Pennsylvania was formed when Marshall Dennehey opened a small office in Pittsburgh. Now that defense firms have been consolidating and regionalizing for two decades, it is difficult to appreciate how innovative it was in 1993 for a firm headquartered in Philadelphia to attempt to operate an office in Pittsburgh. Technology did not yet allow for instant mass communication, and most attorneys had no concept of how to operate a computer. The gravitational forces of localism were powerful, and overcoming them would require a sustained investment. The survival of our Pittsburgh office through its early years can be attributed only to the firm’s determination to make it succeed—and largely to the management skill and hard labor of Tom Brophy, who directed branch office operations before becoming the firm’s president and CEO. In 2018, Tom’s first year as president emeritus of our firm, we in Pittsburgh are proud to remember the progress of this office over its 25-year history as a case study in the effectiveness and inspirational power of his leadership.

Marshall Dennehey has advanced steadily in Pittsburgh since the pioneering days of the early Nineties. Today, we can claim to be one of the largest, most established and highly-regarded defense litigation offices in the city. We now employ over 40 attorneys, who are expertly assisted by a 39-member support staff that has remained as stable and efficient as they come. We have been blessed with adept, experienced direction of day-to-day operations by office manager Rose Chulack and assistant manager Debbie Therisod. Our attorneys defend and try civil cases in every state and federal court within the seventeen counties of southwestern Pennsylvania. We also honor client requests to defend lawsuits and workers’ compensation claims in the neighboring state of West Virginia, where eight of our lawyers are licensed practitioners. Half of our professional force consists of distinguished shareholders, while the other half is an energetic group of bright, rising associates. That our attorneys have become too numerous to recognize individually within the confines of this short article is an unfortunate byproduct of the success of our office. A general description of their practices can be attempted, however.

If you have worked with Marshall Dennehey in the past, you are probably aware that our organization is comprised of four separate practice departments which, collectively, cover the spectrum of claims that defense litigation firms may be called upon to litigate. All four of these practice departments are strongly represented in the Pittsburgh office.

The Workers’ Compensation Department, headed locally by Bill Walls, defends state claims and federal black lung claims across our entire practice region. Our workers’ compensation attorneys have been in high demand in recent times. Growing caseloads over an extensive geographical range have necessitated the addition of two attorneys to the group in the past two years. Not being a practitioner in this special field of litigation, I will not attempt to explain what these attorneys do so well to garner the client loyalty that follows them. I will simply allow the burgeoning demand for their services to testify to the quality of their service and results.

The Casualty Department in Pittsburgh handles all varieties of third-party civil actions involving personal injury or property damage, from the smallest matters to catastrophic injuries and wrongful death cases. Our casualty attorneys are prominent locally in the defense of asbestos and Toxic Torts cases, product liability and product warranty actions, transportation and trucking accident cases, construction site accident matters, as well as construction defect, premises liability, automobile liability, liquor liability and intentional tort actions. This department has been energized by the leadership of a new supervisor, Stuart Sostmann, and has also experienced noticeable growth over the past year.

Our Health Care Liability Department is also enjoying the invigorating experience of new leadership by its supervisor, Steve Forry. Representing institutional clients such as hospitals, long-term care facilities, physician practice groups, surgical centers and individual health care providers, such as physicians, nurses, dentists and a variety of other individuals who deliver medical care. The nature, complexity and monetary exposure involved with the matters defended by this practice group fuels the necessity for extensive trial practice before courts all over Western Pennsylvania. Our health care liability practice has successfully produced verdicts favorable to their clients in more than 95% of the cases it has tried to juries.

The Professional Liability Department is the largest of the four in the office, in terms of the number of attorneys practicing within it. This department consists of a collaborative fusion of several distinct practice fields, all of which are dedicated to the defense of claims brought against licensed or elected professionals outside of the health care industry. Our insured clients are lawyers, accountants, debt collectors, investment counselors, securities brokers and real estate agents; architects, engineers, and construction industry professionals; insurance agents, insurance companies and claims professionals; employers, public officials, municipalities and law enforcement officers. It is my privilege to coordinate the cooperative efforts of this distinguished group of attorneys, many of whom are the best-of-the-best at what they do.

As a Pittsburgh practice that can now claim both historic roots and great expectations for the future, it is fitting that we have just relocated to the Union Trust Building, a superb property that is old and new at the same time. Built in 1916 by industrialist Henry Clay Frick, our new home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It enjoys magnificent Flemish-Gothic architecture, including a mansard roof lined with ornate terra cotta dormers and two steeple-like towers. The interior is arranged around a central rotunda, capped by a magnificent stained glass dome. The new owner retained the vintage architectural details and fixtures, while blending them harmoniously with modern artwork and décor. All of the operational infrastructure of the building is brand new. Located in the middle of Grant Street’s legal district, we now gaze across the street at the Allegheny County Courthouse in one direction and, in the other, at the Joseph F. Weis, Jr. U.S. Courthouse. Given our location, we feel as though we’ve moved to the center of everything. The next time you’re in Pittsburgh, we hope you will pay us a visit.

*Scott is the managing shareholder of our Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania office. He can be reached at 412.803.1144 or sgdunlop@mdwcg.com.


Defense Digest, Vol. 24, No. 1, March 2018. Defense Digest is prepared by Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin to provide information on recent legal developments of interest to our readers. This publication is not intended to provide legal advice for a specific situation or to create an attorney-client relationship. ATTORNEY ADVERTISING pursuant to New York RPC 7.1. © 2018 Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted without the express written permission of our firm. For reprints, contact tamontemuro@mdwcg.com.