Torts scholar and former dean Don Gifford named UMB Distinguished University Professor

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Donald G. Gifford, the Jacob A. France Professor of Torts and former dean of the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, has been recognized by the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) with the title of Distinguished University Professor. The designation is the highest appointment bestowed on a faculty member at UMB. Gifford was honored with the Distinguished University Professor medal at UMB’s fall convocation on Sept. 14.  

“Professor Gifford’s contributions to the field of law are both impressive and impactful,” said Provost and Executive Vice President Roger Ward, in his introduction. “Professor Gifford’s impact on the legal profession is immeasurable and has enriched legal education and will continue to do so for generations to come.”  

Gifford is a leading scholar shaping the field of tort law. He is the author or co-author of five books, including a torts casebook and a legal negotiation text, as well as numerous articles about topics including mass torts, products liability, technological change and tort law, how race affects the substantive law of torts, the history of constitutional originalism in tort law, medical malpractice, and comparative fault and the liability of joint tortfeasors. His many influential law review articles have been cited hundreds of times by other scholars and courts.  

Along with late-Professor Emeritus Oscar S. Gray (deceased 2019) and Professor Christopher Robinette, Gifford has, since 2013, prepared quarterly updates to Harper, James and Gray on Torts, the definitive five-volume torts treatise in the field.    

In addition, Gifford is the author of the book, Suing the Tobacco and Lead Pigment Industries, which features a critical analysis of government tort litigation against manufacturers of products that cause public health problems such as cigarettes and lead pigment.   

“He is, quite simply, a truly leading scholar in the [torts] field recognized as such both in America and internationally," wrote Judge Guido Calabresi, Sterling Professor Emeritus and former dean of Yale Law School and senior judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in his letter in support of the nomination. “But every bit as important as his magnificent reputation is the quality of his scholarship. I find myself, again and again, going to what Don has written and edited in my own scholarship and my judicial opinions. And to be blunt, there are mighty few academics of whom I can say that...”   

As dean of the law school from 1992 through 1999, Gifford initiated the efforts to build the current law school building, obtained the legislative approval and funding for the building, raised a majority of the private contributions for it, and saw the building project through its initial architectural design phases. Under his leadership, the level of private giving to the law school quadrupled.     

Gifford chaired the Maryland Lead Paint Poisoning Commission from 1992 until 1995, and in that role was a principal architect of Maryland’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Act. Later, he promoted legislation designed to eliminate or reduce childhood lead poisoning in 10 other states and in the United States Congress. He is a member of the American Law Institute.  

Before joining the law school, Gifford was dean of the West Virginia University College of Law and earlier a professor at the University of Florida and the University of Toledo. He is a graduate of Harvard Law School and the College of Wooster. 


Update of original article posted June 5, 2023