Moritz College of Law The Ohio State University
This Month @ Moritz

Dale Perdue '80: Waging War for the Injured and Aggrieved

Perdue family
Dale and Phyllis with son Justin

Columbus attorney Dale Perdue '80 has built his law firm – Clark, Perdue, Arnold & Scott – one client and one case at a time, guided by the simple principle of aggressively and creatively representing people and businesses seeking justice and fair compensation.

Consider the young lawyer and father of three who was fatally shot by his estranged wife on Labor Day weekend in 2001. "She claimed self-defense," says Dale, "but in the couple's relationship and divorce proceeding, she never lodged a single complaint of violence committed against her by her husband."

"Despite the fact that the husband was unarmed and hiding in a closet when his wife shot him eight times," says Dale, "a jury acquitted her on criminal charges in October 2002." Dale received a call from the decedent's family, and in November 2004, the jury in the civil murder trial found the defendant liable for the death and awarded the lawyer's estate substantial damages, including punitive damages. "This verdict was about more than money – it represented vindication and justice for the family," Dale says, citing the case as one of the most interesting of his career.

Fresh out of The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, Dale, a Columbus native, ran a solo practice for six years. In 1986, he and Ed Clark '74 co-founded Clark , Perdue. Now approaching 20 years with the practice, Dale says he is proud of the career choices he's made and looks forward to continued success.

"I wanted to have a firm that could offer ordinary citizens a key to the courthouse – that would provide working men and women the same quality of aggressive legal representation and resources that big corporations get from large law firms," he says. "I believe we have earned a reputation for integrity, quality and a certain relentlessness. Our core business remains helping people."

Focusing on complex personal injury cases and business-to-business litigation, the firm specializes in personal injury, product liability, medical malpractice, pharmaceutical cases, mass torts, and class actions. "We don't do cookie cutter-type cases," he says. "We like to focus on cases where we can dramatically improve the quality of life for our client – or where we can change the law in a way the makes society safer."

Dale's determination to help people drives him to take calculated risks.

Ten years ago, a car struck a man checking his mail, leaving him with a traumatic brain injury. When his insurance company denied the claim, Dale stepped in. Before the trial, the insurance company offered an insufficient six-figure settlement. They pointed out that large awards were non-existent in that particular rural county. Dale refused and wound up obtaining his client an award more than eight times the settlement offer – with a jury verdict four times higher than the previous largest award in the county.

"People said you couldn't get a good judgment in a mild traumatic brain injury case. They said it was futile," Dale says. "That simply wasn't true. But, the point is not that it was a large judgment. The point is that it was an amount of money that would ensure my client the quality of life he deserved. It allowed him to live his life with dignity. That is why I've never wanted to do anything else."

Perdue family
The Perdue family at the
2005 Fiesta Bowl

It was the same with a family in Licking County whose modular home exploded, killing a 12-year-old girl and taking the leg of her grandmother. The propane gas supplier denied responsibility. Dale invested two years into the investigation of that case, meeting with engineers and other experts, logging thousands of miles in travel, and eventually winning a substantial settlement for the family. "Every case is a puzzle to be solved," Dale says. "The challenge is fitting all the pieces together so that you can see the picture and understand what happened. Then you can show the picture to the jury and right a wrong."

Dale makes time to serve his profession and his alma mater. He was recently named to the American Board of Trial Advocates. He has served as president of the Ohio Academy of Trial Lawyers and the Franklin County Trial Lawyers Association. He served six years on the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline for the Ohio Supreme Court. Dale is also chair of the class of 1980 reunion to be held on September 16 and 17 at the College's new Barrister Club. Dale and his wife Phyllis have generously endowed a scholarship for Moritz students.

Dale demands much of himself, a habit reinforced by the rigors of law school. "I found Ohio State a rigorous, demanding academic experience," he says, "It's an extraordinary school." After 27 years, he fondly remembers the first-year contracts class taught by Professor Al Clovis, known then as now for his dry sense of humor. Though some think contracts can be dull, Dale says he found that the principles of Clovis' lessons reached across all areas of law.

With a quarter century of personal injury work under his belt, Dale says he could not imagine doing anything else. "This is the only law-related job I've ever had," he says. "I never wanted to work for anyone else. I wanted to be in control of what I do. I have an independent spirit."