Plot[ edit ] Environmental toxins in the city of Woburn, Massachusetts contaminate the area's water supply, and become linked to a number of deaths of neighboring children. Jan Schlichtmann John Travoltaa cocky and successful Boston attorney who zips around town in his Porscheand his small firm of personal injury lawyers are asked by Woburn resident Anne Anderson Kathleen Quinlan to take legal action against those responsible. After originally rejecting a seemingly unprofitable case, Jan finds a major environmental issue involving groundwater contamination that has great legal potential and a couple of defendants with deep pockets. The local tanneries could be responsible for several deadly cases of leukemia, but also are the main employers for the area.
Published in the Boston Phoenix on December 18, In one corner of her living room is a brightly decorated tree. And attached to the side of a bookcase is a jolly drawing of Santa Claus.
Anderson does the best she can to keep the Christmas alive for her two children and six grandchildren. The drawing of Santa Claus, you see, was the handiwork of her third and youngest child, Jimmy.
He was Book vs movie civil action with leukemia inwhen he was three and a half. His illness was caused, she believes, by contaminated drinking water, poisoned by corporations that have never truly been brought to justice.
In Januaryjust a few weeks after Christmas, Jimmy died. Years of painful, debilitating treatments, relapses, and crises were over. The billboards and television ads are inescapable. John Travolta and Robert Duvall will be there. So will Kathleen Quinlan, who plays Anderson in the movie.
So, in all likelihood, will Anderson, steeling herself against her ambivalence about the film and the best-selling book by Jonathan Harr on which it was based.
And against the decidedly mixed feelings she has for the man Travolta is portraying: Anderson continues to live in the small home where her children grew up, in a modest, middle-class section of Woburn.
Now 62, she appears about 10 years younger. But the sadness is never far below the surface. For years, the ongoing story was my main assignment: My father died of lung cancer in My mother was diagnosed with cancer inthe year the trial took place; she died two years later, just as the appeals process was heating up.
Eventually, investigators would report that the 28 leukemia cases diagnosed in Woburn between and the mids were four times more than should be expected for a community of its size.
A middle- and lower-middle-class community 12 miles north of Boston, Woburn is one of the birthplaces of the Industrial Revolution. A toxic brew of chemicals has been floating through the Aberjona River valley, which bisects Woburn, for more than years.
City officials first started talking about drilling wells in East Woburn in the s to alleviate the chronic shortage of drinking water. In they hired an outside consultant to conduct an engineering study. Yet in the city committed the original sin in this multigenerational tragedy.
It was this highly contaminated water that Jimmy Anderson was exposed to in utero, was bathed in, drank, and played in.
They found no evidence that the contents of the barrels had made their way into the wells. What they did find, though, was even worse: The wells were closed and have not been used since.
The discovery provided Anne Anderson with the resolve she needed to act. But few wanted to listen. She fought an unresponsive City Hall.
She even fought Charlie, who believed she was chasing a chimera. He asked their minister, the Reverend Bruce Young, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, to intervene — to talk to her, to try to bring her some sense of peace over what had befallen their family.
The response was overwhelming, far larger than he had expected. A map was put together, with colored pins marking homes where someone had been diagnosed with leukemia; a cluster became visible in East Woburn. I brought to it a clerical collar.
The population of Woburn, Ryan knew, had fallen from 40, to around 36, Ryan asked a simple question: What would happen if the lower figure were used? I think without that story, the Centers for Disease Control, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the state never would have pushed that hard.Yes, folks.
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A CIVIL ACTION is the true account of a civil lawsuit brought by a group of parents seeking to recover damages from two large corporations who polluted their local water supply causing serious illness to the families in their community.4/5.
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