Professor from Practice
Denis Stearns is a founding partner of Marler Clark, LLP, PS, a Seattle-based law firm with a national practice devoted to the representation of persons injured by unsafe food and drink. He is also a principal in Outbreak, Inc, a non-profit company that promotes food safety through education, political advocacy, and pro bono consulting with the food industry.
Stearns began his involvement in food-related litigation in 1993 as one of the lead defense attorneys handling the cases arising from the historic Jack in the Box E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in January 1993. Mr. Stearns was responsible for designing and implementing a discovery plan that allowed Foodmaker to present a consistent and successful defense in over one hundred lawsuits spread among several states. In this role, Mr. Stearns obtained extensive knowledge and experience in litigation that involves complex manufacturing systems, foodborne illnesses, and issues of quality control. He also became noted for a highly principled, but persistent, approach to the discovery process and is a frequent speaker and guest lecturer on ethics and the law. Since helping to found Marler Clark twelve years ago, he has worked on hundreds of food outbreak cases, including recent ones involving E. coli O157:H7-contaminated Dole spinach, Salmonella in Peter Pan peanut butter and Banquet pot pies, and a spate of outbreaks involving E. coli O157:H7 in ground beef, Nestlé cookie dough, and raw milk.
Mr. Stearns graduated from Seattle University with a degree in philosophy and obtained his law degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is a frequent author and speaker on a wide variety of topics related to food, law, economics, and policy, and is the author of two book-chapters, a law journal article, and numerous other articles, essays, and opinion pieces. His most recent article, which is entitled "ON (CR)EDIBILITY: Why Food in the U.S. May Never Be Safe," will be published April this year in Stanford Law & Policy Review. He also has had an article published in the Journal of Food Law & Policy, titled "Preempting Food Safety: An Examination of USDA Rulemaking and its E. coli O157:H7 Policy in Light of Estate of Kriefall ex rel. Kriefall v. Excel Corporation." He has written extensively on food law and product liability law.
In addition to his work for Marler Clark, Mr. Stearns is active in the King County Bar Association pro bono program, Volunteer Attorneys for People with AIDS. Mr. Stearns was for nine years on the Board of Directors for The Bailey-Boushay House, America's first skilled nursing facility that was planned, founded, built and staffed to meet the needs of people living with AIDS.
Seattle University School of Law
- B.A., magna cum laude, Seattle University, philosophy
- J.D., with honors, University of Wisconsin School of Law, Articles Editor, Wisconsin International Law Journal
- Legal Writing II