Richard Grand

Richard Grand, a Tucson attorney at the vanguard of pushing wrongful-death and injury payments into the millions of dollars, died Sunday in San Francisco. He was 83.

Grand died in his sleep of natural causes, said C.J. Karamargin, a family friend.

Since graduating from the University of Arizona's law school in 1958, Grand won his clients a settlement or verdict of more than $1 million apiece in more than 100 cases.

"When Richard started getting $1 million verdicts, other lawyers weren't even thinking that way," said Ron Mercaldo, a friend and fellow personal-injury lawyer here.

In 1972, Grand won what was at the time the largest personal-injury award to go to a single plaintiff in the United States - a $3.5 million payment to a Tucson man burned in a hospital accident.

That same year he established the Inner Circle of Advocates, an exclusive club of American lawyers with at least one verdict in excess of $1 million and more than 50 jury trials behind them. Among the other members were Johnnie Cochran and John Edwards.

Grand once described the group to a reporter as "like 100 Barry Bondses getting together who want to know about hitting home runs."

He also founded a similar group in the United Kingdom called the Richard Grand Society.

South Tucson bankruptcy

To many, Grand cut an intimidating profile.

Among his successes were a $3.6 million verdict against South Tucson after one of the city's police officers shot and paralyzed another officer, resulting in the city's 1983 bankruptcy; and an $8 million verdict from the YMCA in 2003 after a child drowned in a pool.

He sought news coverage and eventually, even jurors knew who he was. "They knew that if he accepted a case, a multimillion-dollar verdict was expected," said personal-injury attorney Ted Schmidt.

Other attorneys in the same field would send referrals to him because of his success rate. In exchange, they would get a portion of the verdict or settlement payment.

At the beginning of a case, Grand would often send the party from which his clients were seeking compensation a letter with a settlement offer, a standard practice, but his letters stood out.

They came with a cover letter that listed his past settlement and verdict payments in three-dimensional text that appeared to be made of stone, Schmidt said. "If you didn't pay, he was going to take you to court, and he did."

Grand's willingness to present his case to a jury set him apart as much as the high-dollar payments he won. It was not the norm in personal-injury claims at the time, but it was where Grand's talents shone.

Burr Udall, a friend and attorney who often represented the opposing side in Grand's cases, said, "I just knew it was going to be tough because he was good."

"He consciously understood the connection between the courtroom and the theater," Karamargin said. "He would compare speaking to a jury to trying to convince a girl to go out with you. You don't do it with index cards and a PowerPoint. You have to strike a spark."

Grand used props such as a skull to present anatomical information to the jury, and - as a former disc jockey - he commanded the room with his velvety voice, his fellow attorneys recall.

"He would paint a word picture that was graphic and that jurors would understand," Mercaldo said.

Students paid attention

Law students and other attorneys would file into the courtroom to listen to his closing arguments and try to deconstruct his techniques.

Grand stayed close to his alma mater, funding two annual UA law school competitions, the Richard Grand Damages Argument Competition and the Richard Grand Legal Writing Competition. His lucky trial jacket, among other personal items, is on display in the law school's library.

But as much as he loved exploring legal theories with his peers, Grand was also a solitary figure, described by other attorneys, even those he talked to on the phone regularly, as distant and standoffish, difficult but with a soft side.

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Schmidt, who once applied for a job that Grand advertised as coming with a $1 million salary, said Grand presented terms that included mandatory lunch in the office and no future socialization with other attorneys.

Mercaldo recalled asking to join the Inner Circle of Advocates after he won his own first $1 million settlement and being turned down because only one Tucsonan was allowed. The group lists no other Arizona attorneys as past or present members.

Some of Grand's professional partnerships ended in acrimony.

Fan of theater

In his personal life, Grand loved theater, even traveling to London with his wife of 61 years, Marcia, to see a show, Karamargin said.

He had a whimsical side, jotting notes in purple and green felt-tip pens and sporting a bright red watchband, as well as commissioning brightly colored paintings in which he asked the artist to conceal a teddy bear, Karamargin said.

A wall of Grand's San Francisco apartment was covered in his teddy bear collection, said Schmidt, who visited as part of a job interview.

Although Grand long kept that apartment, he continued to call Tucson home.

He moved here in 1951 after about 12 years in New York.

Grand was born in 1930 in what is now Gdansk, Poland, but his family fled to the United States as anti-Semitism rose in advance of World War II.

He is survived by his wife, Marcia, and daughter, Cindy. Memorial services are pending.

Contact reporter Carli Brosseau at or 573-4197.