Accuracy, here parents of the deceased children sued the companies W. R. Grace and Beatrice for negligence and wrongful death, among other charges. Both the movie and the actual civil case pose many insights about tort and environmental law, as well as demonstrate the sentimental, intrinsic value of such exorbitant litigation’s. To begin, the movie A Civil Action is largely based on the landmark case Anderson v. Accuracy. In Woodbury Massachusetts, an unusually high number of people, specifically children, were beginning to die from leukemia. One such child was Jimmy Anderson.
Suspecting that contaminated water from woo municipal supply wells (G and H) was the cause of her son’s untimely death, Anne Anderson tenaciously tried to sue. Her “orphan case” bounced around between attorneys offices until it came across the desk of the Clinicians, Conway, & Crowley offices. The personal injury lawyers initially had an aversion to the case, due to the lack of evidence, high costs to produce evidentially findings, and the ambiguity of the defendant. However, after learning that three industrial giants with deep pockets are purportedly responsible for the water contamination, the firm takes the case.
A class action lawsuit thus ensued, with the plaintiffs composed of eight families who had lost children to leukemia from the contaminated water. Clinicians sued two major companies, W. R. Grace Co. And J. Riley Tannery, a subsidiary of Beatrice Co. , for negligence, conscious pain and suffering, and wrongful death. A third company, Unifiers, was sued as well, but settled out immediately for slightly over 1 million dollars. The company W. R. Grace owned a chemical plant in Wobble that manufactured food-packaging equipment under the name Accuracy, and used the chemical trinitrotoluene ETC), a possible carcinogen, to clean tools.
The company Beatrice owned the John Riley tannery, which allegedly dumped ETC and other industrial solvents onto the 15 acre property. W. R. Grace was represented by William Chessman, and Beatrice was represented by masterful attorney and Harvard graduate, Jerome Fetcher. Wanting to avoid the excessive costs Of trial, Fetcher and Chessman initially Chessman filed a motion to dismiss, on grounds that the case was frivolous and lacked evidence. After denial for his motion, he along with Fetcher, tried to arrange a settlement, which proved to be unsuccessful. The case, like 1. 5% of all other civil actions, was going to the courtroom.
To prove that W. R. Grace and the J. Riley Tannery were illicitly dumping chemicals, Clinicians began to obtain depositions from workers for the companies. Most of the workers, however, were reluctant to relinquish information. Eventually, some workers did comply and admit that they had witnessed or partaken in the dumping of chemicals. Next, Clinicians had to prove that the dumping of the toxins was directly linked to the contamination of the well water, miles away. In order to do so, the attorneys had to spend age sums of money on geological research and medical studies; experts were to be brought in to testify.
The tiny firm quickly exhausted their money and assets on the case, and became so financially invested in the outcome. After presentation of the scientific evidence, Scholasticism planned on having the parents of the deceased testify, an act that would surely gain the jury’s sympathy. This plan was foiled, however, when Judge Skinner decided to divide the trial into parts and ask the jury if they believed the geological evidence was sufficient In proving that the dumping of the toxins intimidated the wells. Skinner felt that if the evidence was insufficient, there would be no case and no need to subject the plaintiffs to relive their pain.
In response to the questionnaire, the jury said that the geological evidence was sufficient for W. R. Grace, but insufficient for Beatrice and the J. Riley Tannery. Thus, the case against Beatrice was dismissed. Scholasticism met with W. R. Grace, and a settlement was reached for $8 million. The families got a few hundred thousand dollars, a small sum compared to the one initially promised by Scholasticism and little compensation for the loss hey had incurred. As a result of the trial, Scholasticism experienced tumultuous economic downturn and eventually filed for bankruptcy. His firm broke apart after increased tensions during the case.
Eventually, upon referral from Scholasticism, the case caught eye of the Environmental Protection Agency, who was able to prove what Scholasticism couldn’t. W. R. Grace and Beatrice had to take part of a $69 million dollar clean-up of the Wobble area, the largest and most expensive project of its kind in New England history. Off the bat, it was a huge challenge for Scholasticism and his tiny personal injury firm to win against the monstrous companies involved. The large companies, W. R. Grace and Beatrice, had much more money than Scholasticism and his team, allowing them to acquire the best attorneys and experts.
While Scholasticism and his company had to exhaust all of their assets to finance the case, the companies found it easier to support the trial financially. The companies were also able to be represented by masterful lawyers, such as Chessman and Fetcher. Both were Harvard graduates, were better versed in law, had more experience, and were more equipped to Andre high level cases. Additionally, Scholasticism had the burden to gather depositions from workers who witnessed the dumping of the chemicals, a process that proved to be very difficult.
Since Wobble was a small factory town, it was difficult to find workers who would testify against their employers. Thus, Scholasticism had a difficult time proving that the companies illegally dumped toxins onto the land. Overall, Scholasticism had a more difficult time because he, as a plaintiff, had the burden of proof in the case. He had to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that: (a) the two impasse dumped toxic solvents and chemicals onto the land, (b) that these chemicals contaminated the well water miles away, and (c) that the contaminated well water caused the leukemia outbreak and deaths of the chi lilied.
In the case Anderson v. Accuracy, there are many aspects of civil law that apply. Scholasticism and the families sued W. R. Grace and Beatrice of negligence, conscious pain and suffering and wrongful death. The two companies are the toreadors, and Scholasticism was seeking both punitive damages and general damages for the pain and suffering of the families. W. R. Grace and Beatrice committed gross negligence by dumping toxic carcinogens into the land because their conduct was so reckless that it demonstrated a substantial lack of concern for whether an injury will result.
By dumping the toxins, they had no regard for the environmental impacts, as well as the impacts on human life. Additionally, W. R. Grace and Beatrice are allegedly liable for wrongful death. Wrongful death means that a person dies due to the legal fault of another person. In this case, the children of the plaintiffs died as a result of the fault of the companies to dispose of the chemicals properly. Therefore, they should be civilly liable for the deaths of the children.
Moreover, the companies are allegedly responsible for negligent torts for the pollution and destruction of the environment. Under environmental law, the companies should be held liable, for they failed to dispose of the toxins properly. In my opinion, the litigation was definitely “worth it” intrinsically, despite its excessive costs. Despite the fact that Scholasticism lost an incredible amount of money by bringing the case to trial, his actions helped bring justice for the children’s deaths and brought environmental law to the forefront of civil actions. W. R.
Grace and Beatrice were at tremendous fault and should be held responsible for the deaths of the innocent children in Wobble. The children suffered and died at the hands of these company negligence and rash actions. Because of the company’s failure to dispose of chemicals properly, 8 children are dead; 8 children will never grow up and experience life’s joys of happiness and love. Big companies need to be held responsible for their actions, and in my opinion, this case set a valuable precedent that companies can’t just do what they want and forego the safety of others.
Additionally, the case was a monumental one in the idea of environmental law. Acclimation’s litigation helped bring awareness of the toxic waste dumping to the EPA. The EPA was able to find W. R. Grace and Beatrice liable, and helped the clean-up of the Wobble area. Because of their litigation, the Wobble area was cleaned up, allowing for a safe future for the community and the members of it. So, while the case didn’t receive much money in damages, it helped set significant precedents in environmental law, and brought justice to the deaths of 8 Wobble children.