Slade McLaughlin, 65, a Philadelphia personal injury attorney who built a stellar career representing clients in legal battles against the likes of Pennsylvania State University and its disgraced former assistant football coach, Jerry Sandusky, as well as the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, died by suicide, Sunday, April 3, near his home.
Mr. McLaughlin’s death stunned his family and colleagues in the city’s legal community who remembered him as a “larger-than-life” force who lived to seek justice for his clients, many of whom had been victimized by large, powerful entities.
On Sunday afternoon, he left a note for his wife, Caroline, and drove to a housing development under construction near his Villanova home where he died, said Paul Lauricella, who knew Mr. McLaughlin for 43 years, graduated from law school with him, and was his law partner for the last 11 years.
Mr. McLaughlin had been suffering under the weight of an increased workload with the waning of COVID-19 restrictions, said his son Brandon McLaughlin, a Boston-based attorney. Within the last month or so, he was anxious, wasn’t eating, and had lost 30 pounds, his son said.
“I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that trials are starting up again in Philadelphia and it was overwhelming for him. It was too much,” his son said.
“I hope this brings some awareness to the importance of mental health for lawyers. It’s a very hard profession and people just need to be conscious that it wears on you.”
Born at Chestnut Hill Hospital and raised in Cherry Hill, Mr. McLaughlin graduated from Ursinus College in 1979, then attended Villanova University School of Law, where he graduated in 1982.
During his final year in law school he met his future wife at a party on campus and married her in 1989, Lauricella said.
Just out of law school, Mr. McLaughlin worked as a defense lawyer at the firm of Griffith & Burr representing criminal defendants, but he quickly discovered that he preferred representing plaintiffs in civil lawsuits, his son said.
“He enjoyed helping people,” his son said. “He represented the most vulnerable people who had catastrophic injuries occur to them, people who were victims of sexual abuse. I think a lot of what he did weighed on him immensely. He was dealing with people at the worst points of their lives, but he was dedicated to them, he was a great advocate.”
In 1994 Mr. McLaughlin moved to the Beasley Firm LLC, where he and Lauricella worked together. They left in 2011 to form McLaughlin & Lauricella PC, which specializes in cases involving medical malpractice, sexual abuse, accidents, and injury.
Among the firm’s successes were a $20 million medial malpractice verdict in 2009 awarded to the family of a woman who died during cosmetic surgery; the 2019 $1.5 million verdict in the case of college student Shane Montgomery, whose parents sued a Manayunk bar claiming it was responsible for his drowning death because he had been served past the level of intoxication; and confidential settlements on behalf of 13 victims who sued Penn State and Sandusky claiming the former coach sexually molested them as children, and in 2015 on behalf of a young man who claimed he had been sexually abused by a Catholic priest.
“He was the most righteous, principled, loyal guy I knew,” said Lauricella. “He was the guy who fixed problems. There was never a time if you were with Slade that you thought things were out of control, because he was always keeping things together.”
In addition to his wife and son, Mr. McLaughlin is survived by another son, Devin; daughter Christina; his mother, Dolores McLaughlin; sisters Anastasia McLaughlin and Courtney Moore; and brother Gavin McLaughlin.
The family will receive guests on Thursday, April 7, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Chadwick & McKinney Funeral Home, 30 E. Athens Ave., Ardmore. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10:30 a.m. Friday, April 8, at St. Dorothy’s Church, 4910 Township Line Rd., Drexel Hill. Interment will be private.
Donations may be made in his memory to Dave Nee Foundation at www.daveneefoundation.org.