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Civil Action - Movie Review

Essay by   •  July 8, 2011  •  Book/Movie Report  •  1,112 Words (5 Pages)  •  1,059 Views

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The Protagonist in the film, A Civil Action, experiences many conflicts which require him to think critically, use problem solving techniques and make moral judgements. Some of his judgements have positive effects, while others have negative effects on him and others surrounding him.

Jan Schlichtmann , a personal injury lawyer is set to encounter a series of conflicts that directly affect him and others when he is offered a case in which eight children in the small town of Woburn, Massachusetts have died of leukemia, he decides to turn it down. Using the pragmatic theory, Jan is quick to realize that there is not enough evidence in the case about the cause of the leukemia and therefore no value to set for a settlement for the deaths of the children. His decision to not take the case has an effect on the parents of the children who have died of leukemia. The parents probably will not get justice for the deaths of their children.

While on his way from the Woburn, Jan is ticketed for speeding, where is realizes that spilled chemicals from a local factory and tanning plant tainted the water and caused the cancer. Then a quick investigation reveals that a pair of extremely wealthy corporations, W.R. Grace & Co. and Beatrice Foods, may be involved. Their deep pockets and the potential for a huge pay day cause Jan to change his mind and accepts the case. While the families only wanted an apology from the ones responsible for the deaths, Jan was thinking of the huge sum of money he could possibly get from the corporation. This is an example of the pragmatic theory. This decision has a direct effect on the parents of the deceased children; they can get justice for the deaths of their children. Also, the entire group Jan works with. They are his partners.

Once the case began, Jan faced a tough task of proving negligence on the part of the corporation, this was expensive and consumed every moment of his partners' time. Nonetheless, they take the case and hire many specialists to start digging for some facts. In this decision Jan uses the pragmatic theory again. He realizes, to win the case and the huge settlement, he must put everything on the line. A tremendous amount of money is put into this case through research of the plant and the land which the companies preside on. This decision has a direct effect on his partners, and they are faced with the daunting task to provide money for the research. The accountant is forced to sell many assets as well as borrow from the bank to provide money for the research.

As the case progressed, the opposite side agreed to make a settlement; twenty-five million dollars, presumably. Jan on the other hand had a change of heart. He somehow realized the true “value” or rather, what the families really wanted, not compensation but empathy. Jan asserts that the opposite pay three hundred million dollars in total in settlement: pay for medical research, more than a million annually per family for thirty years and etc. This decision is defined by the altruistic theory. Jan realizes the importance of “life” and focuses on the cure for the problem not the settlement alone. This decision affects his partners, first of all, they were unaware of his plans, and obviously denied the requested settlement, which caused a huge set back for the firm. The case would actually go in the court and more research would be involved and hence, more money as well. This is going to set them back even further in debts.

Near the end of the story, Jan is forced to agree to a settlement for eight million dollars. The firm is bankrupt and the case is losing interest in



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