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An Analysis of a Civil Action

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An Analysis of A Civil Action

A Civil Action is a movie based on a real life case that took place several years ago. Several families of Woburn, a small town, were alleging that chemicals spilled by local plants had contaminated their drinking water. Reckless, careless dumping of chemicals at a tanning plant, they discovered, must have caused the chemical spill. This contamination, they believed, caused several children of the town to become sick with leukemia and eight of the children died; the leukemia was only found in the children because of their weak immune systems. Although the cause of leukemia was not known, the parents argued that there was a substantial amount of evidence supporting their assertion. The case was a very risky one to undertake; thus it was passed around by law firms and considered an "orphan" for lack of interest.

Finally a mother of one of the victims of the chemical spill persuaded Jan to take an look at the case. Jan, a businessman, did not take much interest in it until he discovered that the owners of the plants in question were large corporations that produced a very large sum of money. Believing that this case never go to trial and that a settlement would be made, Jan saw undertaking the case as a financial gain. Therefore, Jan's law firm decided to present the case. However, as the trial went on, Jan began to show a change of heart. After the interrogation of several parents, Jan became truly sympathetic regarding the families' losses. Soon he found himself no longer in it for the money; he

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wanted justice for the families of the victims. Unfortunately, his change for the good did not prove to benefit his case. Jan found himself turning down fair offers for a settlement, so that the issue would go to trial. This proved a hindrance to the case and the initial cause of its downfall.

There were several problems in proving that the children's illness was caused by chemical exposure. First and foremost, the time of the alleged illegal disposal was several years ago. Therefore, no physical evidence remained. This meant that Jan's strategy for winning the case relied on theories supported by scientists and the heart wrenching accounts of the victims' parents. This might be demonstrated when one of Jan's opposing lawyers managed to weasel his way out of the case by disabling the parents from being called to the stand. The second problem was that Jan was a simple injury lawyer, while his opponents were well-seasoned respected lawyers that were top notch at this level. Not only was Jan looked down upon for this reason, but also the other lawyers had an upper hand. They were able to manipulate their power to persuade judges, the jury, and whomever else it may concern. This point can be demonstrated in the movie by the scene during which Jan enters a meeting announced by the judge, only to find the other lawyers enjoying a drink and swapping stories with the judge. Thirdly, it may be noted that several witnessing withheld information regarding the dumping of dangerous chemicals in an effort to keep their jobs. Even in the end of the movie, Jan discovered that one of the victims' fathers that worked in the factory did not inform Jan that he witnessed the actual dumping of material. At the end of the case, another lawyer was able to prove that Jan had not presented substantial enough evidence for his company

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to be involved in the case any longer, and he was excused. Jan, in desperation now, settled with the other lawyer, earning the Woburn families only around three hundred dollars per family. Because Jan no longer had the resources to appeal the case, nor were the odds of winning good ones, he solicited the help of a large wildlife association that was better able to defend Jan's case. This association was able to settle for a larger sum and earn the families' their apologies. While the outcome



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