Richard Nagareda, David Daniels Allen Professor of Law, dies

Richard Nagareda, the David Daniels Allen Professor of Law and director of the Branstetter Litigation and Dispute Resolution Program, died at his home on Friday, October 8. He was 47.

Video of the memorial held at the law school on Friday, November 12, 2010

Nagareda’s appointment to the David Daniels Allen Chair in Law had been announced just two weeks before his death by Dean Chris Guthrie. “Richard was a personal friend as well as an esteemed colleague, and those of us who were fortunate enough to know him and work with him are devastated,” Dean Guthrie said. “The legal academy has lost a gifted scholar, our students an extremely talented teacher, and his wife, son and mother have lost a beloved husband, father and son.”

Nagareda was a leading civil litigation scholar whose work focused on class actions and aggregate litigation. He was the author of a definitive work on complex litigation theory, Mass Torts in a World of Settlement (University of Chicago Press, 2008), as well as a casebook, The Law of Class Actions and Other Aggregate Litigation, released by Foundation Press in 2010. He served as an Associate Reporter on the American Law Institute’s Principles of the Law of Aggregate Litigation, released in summer 2010, and took the primary drafting role for the chapter addressing class certification. He had directed the law school’s Cecil D. Branstetter Litigation & Dispute Resolution Program since its founding in 2005.

In addition to being a respected scholar, Nagareda was an esteemed teacher who held the three-year Tarkington Chair for Teaching Excellence from 2006-09 and was recognized three times by his students with the Hall-Hartman Award for Teaching Excellence, most recently in 2010. He taught Administrative Law, Complex Litigation, Evidence, and multiple seminars, including an innovative Civil Litigation Capstone Seminar he developed for third-year students. “Richard was a gifted teacher and mentor,” Dean Guthrie said. “Regardless of the subject matter, he received outstanding teaching evaluations from his students, many of whom remained in touch with him after graduating.”

His influential articles were published in the University of Chicago Law Review, the Columbia Law Review, the Cornell Law Review, the Georgetown Law Journal, the Harvard Law Review, the Michigan Law Review, the New York University Law Review, the Texas Law Review, the UCLA Law Review and the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, among others.

“Richard was among the most influential and widely cited legal scholars in his field in the country,” Dean Guthrie said. “He published a rich body of scholarship on aggregate litigation, in which he drew from legal doctrine, economics, psychology, and the on-the-ground realities of litigation and litigation financing to offer a pragmatic and nuanced account of the resolution of mass disputes that carefully balances both private and public law considerations.”

Nagareda earned his undergraduate degree from Stanford University in 1985 and his J.D. from the University of Chicago in 1988. He then served as a clerk for Judge Douglas Ginsburg on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. He practiced law in the Office of Legal Counsel for two years and then joined the law firm of Shea & Gardner, where he practiced for three years. In 1994, Nagareda joined the faculty at the University of Georgia School of Law, where he taught for seven years before joining Vanderbilt’s faculty in 2001. He was a Visiting Professor at New York University, the University of Texas, and Vanderbilt.

Since joining Vanderbilt’s law faculty, Nagareda had chaired the law school’s Entry Level Faculty Appointments Committee and an Ad Hoc Tenure Committee and had served on multiple committees at the law school and university. “Richard leaves behind an exceptional record of scholarship, teaching and service, coupled with his national reputation as a leading light in his field,” Dean Guthrie said.

Students and colleagues benefited from Nagareda’s sense of humor and his deep appreciation and enjoyment of pop culture, of which he had an encyclopedic knowledge. He was a fan of “The Simpsons” and “Deadwood” as well as an avid movie buff. A devoted sports fan, he was a lifelong supporter of the New York Yankees, the San Francisco Giants, and the San Francisco 49ers. Knowing his students mimicked his distinctive speaking style, he awarded a prize each year to the student whose impression of him was judged best.

Nagareda regularly contributed to the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and other respected news outlets for his expertise on class action lawsuits and product liability cases.

“The entire Vanderbilt community is deeply saddened by the loss of Richard Nagareda. He was an exemplary scholar and brought an unparalleled level of expertise to the law school,” said Vanderbilt University Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos. “Richard had an amazingly clear way of explaining complex lawsuits to others and was readily available to add his perspective to the public discourse on important topics. It was an honor to have him represent Vanderbilt in that way.”

Nagareda is survived by his wife, his son, and his mother.

His family has asked that memorials be directed to the law school for the purpose of establishing a scholarship in Professor Nagareda’s honor or to the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee.

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