When justice is a long row of zeros

US courts are making huge awards in personal injury cases. Introducing a 'no fee, no win' system to Britain need not lead to such large pay-outs; Stephen Ward meets a doyen of personal injury lawyers in the US

Richard Grand gives ammunition to both sides of the contingency fee debate, demonstrating the awesome power of advocacy in a free market. He once persuaded a jury to award damages that bankrupted a whole town, and offers this view on justice: "There is no such thing as justice. It's whoever can get the most money."

Mr Grand, aged 65, of Tucson, Arizona, is a doyen of personal injury lawyers in the United States. He has made a fortune from taking an average 40 per cent of his clients' winnings. And those winnings have been, by English standards, phenomenal, and they are often in cases which in England might never have reached court.

Last month, the difference between the two legal cultures was highlighted by the £12m awarded to the widow of a victim of the Lockerbie air disaster against Pan Am and the security firm that failed to stop the bomb being planted.

Relatives of the 11 victims who died on the ground, who had to sue in Scotland, are thought to have received less than £20,000 each in out-of- court settlements.

Mr Grand founded and chairs something that British barristers would, publicly at least, find materialistic and even crass, a group known as the Inner Circle.

It is a network, founded in 1972, of 99 men and a woman from among the most successful personal injury attorneys. The qualification to join was to have fought at least 50 personal injury jury trials and gained at least one $1m pay-out.

It is easy to see why he is chairman. Since 1962, he has not lost a case, and in more than 60 cases he has won damages of more than $1m.

In 1962, he lost two cases in a row. The second was a woman in high heels who fell on the grass and hurt her leg. "I never take slip-and-fall cases now." He hasn't lost a case since.

For all his apparent cynicism about justice, he never acts for insurance companies, but fights against them, usually for the little guy. "I like to represent injured people," he says. "For a brain-injured person, money makes a difference."

He has just won $3.55m from Cochise County, Arizona, for the widow and family of a 74-year-old shot dead in his home. It was the county's fault because the killer had just escaped from one of its jails.

The crucial difference between Britain and the US is that American juries still determine damages, while in Britain this is left to the judge. The American system gives the advocate supreme power.

"Juries change the game," he says. "A judge has seen 500 brain-injured babies. Judges are better on liability, juries better at assessing damages.

"I can read a jury most of the time. I know how to touch them, how to get them to agree with what I'm telling them. Sometimes they have to be shocked, and other times handled softly. Knowing the difference is the secret."

He believes that insurance companies should settle sooner, out of court. In the case where he bankrupted a town, it was because they went over the insurance liability limit on their policy. If they had settled out of court, the limit would have covered it.

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
News
news
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
Sport
football
News
i100
News
Perry says: 'Psychiatrists give help because they need help. You would not be working in mental health if you didn't have a curiosity about how the mind works.'
people
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    SThree: HR Benefits Manager

    £40000 - £50000 per annum + pro rata: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

    Recruitment Genius: Office Manager / Financial Services

    £30000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established in 1999, a highly r...

    Jemma Gent: Year End Accountant

    £250-£300 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Are you a qualified accountant with strong exp...

    Jemma Gent: Management Accountant

    £230 - £260 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Do you want to stamp your footprint in histo...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003
    Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

    Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

    Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

    Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
    Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

    Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

    Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
    New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

    Dinner through the decades

    A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
    Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

    Philippa Perry interview

    The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

    Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

    Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
    Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

    Harry Kane interview

    The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?