McCormick Woods Newsletter Article 5/2019

Gig Harbor attorney Nathan Sukhia knew from a young age that he wanted to make the law his career. First inspired by his uncle, a U.S. Attorney appointed by President George H. W. Bush, it wasn't the court room that originally called to Nathan. Instead, he dreamed of working in law enforcement, specifically for the FBI, building the types of cases he saw his uncle litigating.

Sukhia's father, a Presbyterian minister, moved his family frequently planting churches and Nathan was born in Philadelphia and lived in New York and Florida before the family settled in Tennessee. There he met his wife Noël while an undergraduate in Chattanooga. The couple married in Washington where Noël's family resides and then returned to Knoxville where Nathan enrolled in law school at the University of Tennessee and Noël began her career as a paralegal.

Sukhia's first taste of law enforcement came as a Staff Sergeant in the Air National Guard. He distinguished himself as a squad leader and served on the governor's anti-drug task force and security details for the Ocoee River Olympic events and for Vice President Al Gore. His discharge papers came in September 2001, just days before 9/11. With Noël expecting their first child, Nathan decided not to re-enlist or pursue the FBI route, choosing instead to focus on his growing family and new law practice.

They moved to Gig Harbor in 2007 and Sukhia found the practice of law out of Gig Harbor to be a good fit. As a real estate and will and trust litigation/transaction attorney, he was nominated to Super Lawyers in 2005 (and 2015) and named a Washington State Rising Star. But as his list of clients grew, he noticed an area where they were being underserved: personal injury.

"My clients trusted me, so it was natural for them to turn to me when faced with a personal injury claim," Sukhia shared. "It was an area of practice I found I was good at and that served my clients well."

Since then, Sukhia's focus has shifted dramatically and personal injury work now accounts for 50 percent of his cases.

"I'm different from most personal injury firms that spend thousands on advertising and just churn cases through," Sukhia explained. "We end up getting a lot of those cases from personal injury firm mills because we offer something here that's quite different."

Sukhia handles all injury cases personally. Noël, his wife, is the paralegal assigned to all the personal injury cases and makes it a scheduled habit to communicate with all clients weekly or bi-weekly, depending on the stage of the case. Sukhia has handled sensitive cases ranging from dog bites and children kicked by horses to brain injuries caused by drunk drivers and wrongful death suits. When a client has been hurt and is suffering mental strain on top of physical distress, Sukhia feels that bills from an attorney should be the last thing on their mind.

"When you've got a contentious case and then you're receiving bills on top of that!" Sukhia shook his head. "Personal injury takes all that away. Clients don't pay me unless they get paid."

According to Sukhia the landscape of personal injury has changed in the last decade and not in the injured party's favor.

"I spend a lot of my time telling people: go to the doctor, get the diagnosis, get the treatment because your whole case is built on that," Sukhia said. "Insurance companies have tightened their purse strings but the value that an attorney adds right off the bat is that as soon as that letterhead goes out the insurance company goes, 'OK, we're going to have to take this case seriously.'"

Another of Sukhia's specialties, real estate law, can be equally challenging. Resolving disputes like boundary lines, tree cutting, view easements, fence lines, and disagreements with HOAs requires expert counsel.

"People feel strongly about property rights," Sukhia shared. "The right to own property and be able to protect it is Constitutionally ingrained in us."

The Sukhia's built a home on their own acreage in Wauna in 2007 but feel a special kinship with their neighbors in Kitsap County, where Nathan focusses much of his attention.

"I like dealing with the people from Kitsap," he shared. "They're salt of the earth, like the people I grew up with in east Tennessee."

All told, Sukhia serves clients in Mason, Thurston, King, Kitsap and his home county of Pierce, where he and Noël and their four sons (ages 17, 14, 12 and 7) are active in basketball, football and track & field at Peninsula and Gig Harbor High Schools and have sponsored Harbor

Soccer Club for the last eight years. When not attending the boy's sporting events, they enjoy taking trips to Hawaii and are active in their church.

As a lawyer dealing with some of life's most trying situations, Nathan often finds himself acting not only as an attorney, but also as a counselor.

"My Christian faith and my family help me have understanding and empathy for my clients and what they're going through," Sukhia shared. "I find myself better equipped to help people, not just with their actual injury and recovery, but also with how they get through these challenging times in their lives."