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Civil Action In 1979 two wells supplying the drinking water for the small New England town of East Worburn in Massachusetts were found to be dumping industrial solvents At this same time in Massachusetts there were other investigations of industrial dumping The residents of Worburn had long been concerned about their foul-tasting drinking water and the unexplained high incidence of leukemia deaths of the young children in their community Anne Anderson a mother whose son Jimmy died of leukemia in 1981 spearheaded the efforts of eight Worburn families to determine the parties responsible for their environmental tragedy Eventually mega corporations Beatrice Foods and WR Grace Co were identified as the owners of the properties that may have been the possible source of most of the pollutants Jan Schilctmann a personal-injury lawyer and his small law firm were hired to sue these two major corporations He was hired to sue them for the damage arising from the pollution of the towns drinking water Jerome Facher was the chief litigator at a venerable Boston law firm were he was in charge of representing Beatrice Foods William Cheeseman was appointed to defend the interests of the international conglomerate WR Grace These codefendants are well aware of the potentially high stakes of this lawsuit and are fully prepared to throw their considerable resources behind an uncompromising defense to the charges presented before them The trial is presided over by US District Judge Walter J Skinner In the book A Civil Action is this example of the justice system gone awry or is it an example of ordinary citizens attaining access to the process of justice In the story a civil action there were many ups and downs over the eight-year trial Schlichtmann succumbs to the temptations of greed good intentions and the boasting and plummets to the deepest circles of wasted opportunity as well as courtroom embarrassment and at the same time bankruptcy
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