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A Civil Action

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A Civil Action

A Civil Action by Jonathan Harr is about the true story of a lengthy lawsuit filed by families living in Woburn, Massachusetts. They were suing two large corporations, Beatrice Foods and W.R. Grace who were accused of polluting the drinking water of the town. The book follows Jan Schlichtmann, who is the prosecuting attorney in trial as he is determined to prove that the two companies are responsible for giving a couple of children leukemia. This trial has made me realize that there are many factors that can determine the outcome of a case and the strategy that goes behind winning a case.

In 1972, children in Woburn were becoming sick and couple of them had leukemia. Devastated by her child's disease, Anne investigated the situation and tried to figure out the source of the problem. She took her three-year-old son, Jimmy to see Dr. Truman but even he could not give her an answer. She soon discovered that at least three other children in Woburn suffered from the same type of leukemia as her son. Interviewing each of the families, she came to the conclusion that their had to be something in the air or water that was making the children sick. Water had been an issue in the neighborhood as residents complained about the bad smell and taste. Two wells were tested and found out to have bacteria along with high iron and manganese content. As more children got sick around the area, research was done on the water and some of it was removed. However, it was already too late as children started dying and adults were also being affected. The time for legal action appeared to be right and Jan Schlichtmann stepped in. Jan was a life insurance salesman who was married. The trials of Watergate interested him and he followed his passion to becoming a lawyer. He entered Cornell University law school and graduated. As a rookie firm lawyer, he was not successful and decided to setup his own practice in the town of Newburyport, Massachusetts. He took on a few cases but quickly went into debt. His first big case was against a construction company involving the drowning death of a child. The earnings from this case got him out of debt and he decided to go into tort law. Jan moved to Boston and got offered a job at Reed and Mulligan after winning another big case. Schlichtmann and his new partner Barry Reed worked on several cases together. Anne Anderson and Donna Mulligan who both had their children die from leukemia, contacted Reed and Mulligan about their contaminated water. Schlichtmann was given the case and drove to Woburn to meet with the families. He was there was much work to be done as their was no proof that the water had been messed with and concentrated on other important cases. Schlichtmann once again drove to Woburn for a meeting with the families at a church. He found an organization that could fund the investigation and decided to work on the environmental case. He made a deal with Roisman who was the director of Trial Lawyers in Washington D.C., and made him the lead attorney. Jan would back him up on the investigation and would help him found out the facts. Preliminary investigation was on its way and they secured the EPA reports. EPA suggested that traces of the chemical TCE had probably come from the two factories down the river. TCE is a potent central nervous system depressant



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