Fighting for Victims

Below is a cover story published by The Tacoma Weekly on Mark Lindquist’s transition from public service to private practice.

Former County Prosecutor Now Fights for Victims of Boeing Airline Disasters

by Matt Nagle

When former Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist moved on from his post after the 2018 election, he pretty much hit the ground running. After interviewing with several law firms and considering offers, he chose the renowned Herrmann Law Group, which handles aviation disasters and other personal injury cases. 

“I planned to take a break for writing, reading, and life maintenance, but this opportunity was too good to refuse,” he told The Tacoma Weekly. “So I went straight from one job to the next. No break.” 

Now, Lindquist is using his experience and savvy to help the families of those who perished in the two deadliest Boeing airline crashes in history. 

Last week, the Herrmann Law Group filed a federal lawsuit against The Boeing Company on behalf of the families of two victims who died in the March 10 crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. Prior to this, the firm filed suit against The Boeing Company on behalf of the families of 17 victims who died in the crash of Lion Air Flight JT 610 on Oct. 29, 2018. 

In both crashes, the plane was a Boeing 737 Max 8 and everyone on board died.

More victim families are continuing to sign with the firm. 

“When I joined Herrmann Law, I knew Lion Air would be the first case I would work on,” Lindquist said. “I didn’t know how big of a job it would become. It’s the most engaging case of my career so far and I’ve been blessed to work on many engaging cases.”

Lindquist said he chose Herrmann Law because the firm embodies his professional and personal values.

“When we met to discuss the job, Chuck (Herrmann Law Chairman Charles Herrmann] told me, ‘The purpose of law is to do good and avoid evil.’ Simple and true. That resonated with me. I also admire his daughter, Lara [Herrmann Law CEO], and I like everyone in the firm.” 

Chairman Herrmann has worked on many aviation disasters in his career, starting with Korean Airlines Flight 007 in 1983, a famous case where Russians shot down the Korean jet after it traveled into Soviet prohibited airspace. Since then, Herrmann and the firm have litigated some of the biggest aviation cases in history.

Immediately after Lindquist joined Herrmann Law, he and Herrmann flew to Indonesia for a five-week trip. They signed up clients, got to know them on a personal level, and made it a point to learn about Indonesian culture. 

“To represent somebody well, you need to know them. You need to know their world,” Lindquist said. He noted in this case he would be telling the stories of their Indonesian clients to Boeing attorneys, to the public, and maybe to a jury if the case goes that far.

Before Lindquist was a high-profile prosecutor, he was a bestselling novelist. Four of his books have been published by major publishing houses in New York. 

 “The ability to understand people and tell their story has been a useful skill in every career I’ve had,” he said. “As a novelist, of course, but also as a deputy prosecutor, as an elected official, and now as a trial lawyer.  In the courtroom, the best story usually wins.”

Lindquist and Herrmann returned to Indonesia shortly after the second Boeing 373 Max 8 went down on March 10 (Lindquist’s birthday). The attorneys held an international press conference in Jakarta with more than 40 reporters in attendance from across the globe.

“I likened MCAS (the new computer software that Boeing fatefully installed on the 737 Max 8), to HAL, the sinister computer from ‘2001: A Space Odyssey.’ Fortunately, many reporters nodded. They were familiar with American pop culture. They got it.”

It was the MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System) in both of the jets that took control of the planes and, in both cases, drove the planes’ noses into fatal dives.

Lindquist said that typically a case like this would take around three years, but Herrmann Law is already in mediation with Boeing attorneys from the Seattle firm of Perkins Coie.

“So far, I find the attorneys for Boeing to be professional, civil and strategic,” Lindquist said. “I’m optimistic they will advise their client to do the right thing. In this case, the right thing is full, fair and fast compensation for the victim families along with fixing the aircraft. Boeing needs to do this so everyone can move forward.”

A Smooth Transition

Lindquist said that the transition from prosecutor to personal injury attorney was a natural one. The Herrmann Law website slogan is, “Championing your rights.” Just as he did for 22 years as a career prosecutor, Lindquist continues to pursue justice, hold bad actors accountable and help people.

“Steve Jobs said the best thing that ever happened to him was being voted out of Apple. I love how he put it, ‘The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again.’ Jobs believed he entered the most creative, constructive period of his life at this point. I feel the same way. The sense of starting something new is liberating and it frees your creativity.”

Lindquist has many friends who are writers, musicians, and filmmakers. Artists, he said, understand the importance of change and growth. He quoted playwright Tom Stoppard. “Every exit is an entrance somewhere else.” 

Lindquist’s stint as the elected Pierce County Prosecutor began in 2009 when the Pierce County Council, in an unusually bipartisan vote, unanimously appointed him to the position. Voters kept him there. He was elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2014 with 96 percent of the vote against a write-in candidate.

In the almost 10 years that Lindquist served as county prosecutor, it was reported that felony crimes in Pierce County went down 18 percent and misdemeanor crimes went down 29 percent. 

Asked about his top successes, Lindquist cited the Elder Abuse Unit. Pierce County was one of nine U.S. counties to win $400,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice for a comprehensive approach to reducing elder abuse. 

“I want to give a shout out to (former deputy prosecutor) Erika Nohavec. She was the first supervisor of the Elder Abuse Unit and turned it into a leader in the state,” Lindquist said. “Sven Nelson, who followed her, also did great work.” 

Lindquist’s accomplishments as county prosecutor are still felt to this day. His legacy, in addition to protecting elders, includes a federal lawsuit against Big Pharma for their role in the opioid epidemic; being the first in the state to form a High Priority Offender Unit and use data to focus resources on repeat offenders; a Gang Unit; an Identity Theft Team, and much more.

Before he was the elected prosecutor, Lindquist was one of the prosecutors who convicted the Tacoma Mall Shooter. His co-counsel was Phil Sorensen, who is now a Pierce County Superior Court Judge. Former Tacoma Police Detective Gene Miller, the lead officer on the case, was later hired by Lindquist to organize the High Priority Offender program. 

As the elected, Lindquist continued to prosecute major crimes, including the conviction of Tyler Savage for the rape and murder of Special Olympian Kimmie Daily. 

On top of this, he brought bipartisanship, civility and integrity to the job. Qualities, he noted, that do not seem as popular today as they were ten years ago.

Sometimes described as “central casting’s idea of a prosecutor,” Lindquist is a tall, recognizable figure. People approach him to thank him for his work. He said he still receives Christmas cards and emails from victim family members he worked with as prosecutor. His time as county prosecutor was not without controversy, however, which comes with the territory. He never publicly engaged with his naysayers, preferring to stay above the fray. 

“One of the many things you learn in public service is to focus on the things that actually matter. That’s a good rule in private practice as well. Life, too.” 

Family Matters

When he’s not helping clients, Lindquist remains the dedicated family man he’s always been. His wife, Chelsea, and their nine-year-old daughter, Sloane, are the loves of his life. His proudest moments are when he’s with Sloane, who clearly enjoys hanging out with her dad. She may be the most visible and charming 9-year-old in the city. 

“She’s the star of the family,” Lindquist said. “Chelsea and I are raising her to be confident and comfortable around people. From what I hear, we’re succeeding.”  

Does he have any political aspirations for the future? In response, Lindquist didn’t say yes, but he didn’t exactly say no either. He said he’s too focused on the new trails he’s blazing to think about other options.  

A self-described “student of the Stoics,” (an ancient Greek philosophy that teaches self-control and fortitude), Lindquist shared a quote from Marcus Aurelius. “Begin each day by telling yourself, ‘Today I will encounter meddlers, ingrates, egomaniacs, the jealous and the dishonest. They act this way because they do not know the difference between good and evil.’” 

Summarizing the rest of the passage, Lindquist said, “Aurelius tells us not be bothered by human shortcomings and just remember we are all in this together to do good.” 

Lindquist advises anyone who is in a public position to read Aurelius’ “Meditations” in general, and this passage in particular.

In the end, Lindquist said he feels like he has always been blessed to be in the right place at the right time. “I love my work and I love our clients. Right now it’s difficult to imagine doing anything else.”