By ALAN J. ORTBALS
Dawn Sallerson grew up in a small town in Indiana. The daughter of a carpenter and a secretary, she was raised with a value of self-reliance — to do something; to be something; to take care of yourself. It was with that in mind, she said, that she decided pretty early on to pursue a career in law.
She graduated from the Saint Louis University School of Law in 1986 and immediately joined the law firm of Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP. Today, she’s a capital partner and partner in charge of the firm’s Belleville and Edwardsville offices.
Some attorneys never see the inside of a courtroom. That kind of a practice wasn’t for Sallerson. She craved litigation and anxiously looked forward to going to trial. Early on she did insurance defense, working cases that involved things like product liability and construction accidents. But, a series of health issues that affected her family infused her with a particular interest in defending health-care providers against malpractice claims. It’s been her focus for more than 20 years.
“My family had had a lot of health issues and that’s what really got me thinking I wanted to give back to the profession that had been so instrumental in my life,” Sallerson said. “It’s still a huge part of why I continue to do malpractice work — to defend a profession that I feel I owe so much to.”
Medical malpractice litigation can be complicated, said Sallerson. She talks to the providers — whether that be a hospital, doctors or nurses — brings in experts and also does her own medical research. By the time you walk into the courtroom, she says, you really need to know and understand the case. While many medical malpractice cases are settled out of court, that’s not Sallerson’s way.
“I’m not really keen on settling cases,” Sallerson said. “If they have enough insurance coverage then, in my opinion, they should take that case through trial because a settlement has direct consequences on them. It’s a part of their permanent record. I put everything I have into defending them. I’m going to do what I have to do to defend my client — my doctors or nurses or hospitals.”
Sallerson has never practiced law anywhere but with Hinshaw & Culbertson and has no plans to. She said one of the firm’s strengths is that it allows its attorneys to focus on areas of the law that they find most interesting and challenging.
“The firm has obviously been very good to me,” Sallerson said. “They recognize and reward your efforts. I think that’s a large part of why I’ve always been happy here. It allows me to focus my practice and has recognized me for what I’ve done.”