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A Civil Action

DOWN & DIRTY:
Drama: A personal injury lawyer risks his career representing the families of several children who died as a result of two large and powerful corporations negligent actions.

NITTY GRITTY:
Jan Schlichtmann (JOHN TRAVOLTA) is a highly successful personal injury lawyer. The firm he runs with his partners, Kevin Conway (TONY SHALHOUB) and Bill Crowley (ZELJKO IVANEK), and their accountant, James Gordon (WILLIAM H. MACY), may be small, but it's highly profitable.

They get a call from Anne Anderson (KATHLEEN QUINLAN), a Woburn, Massachusetts mother whose son died of leukemia in the early 80's. She claims that her son's death, and those of other local kids were caused by nearby factories dumping toxins into the town's water.

The law firm won't take the case because they don't see any defendants with deep pockets that would make it financially worth while.

Jan travels to Woburn to inform Anderson of their decision. By coincidence Jan is stopped by a cop for speeding on the bridge over the polluted river. As the officer writes the speeding ticket Jan sees the factories next to the river.

He decides to check them out. He discovers that one of them is a subsidiary of Beatrice Foods, a wealthy corporation. He returns and convinces his partners to take the case.

The problem is that proving negligence on the part of Beatrice and another company, W.R. Grace, will be expensive. Jan hires many specialists to start digging for facts.

After getting the testimony of a friendly witness, Al Love (JAMES GANDOLFINI), the firm finally gets the case to trial before Judge Walter J. Skinner (JOHN LITHGOW).

Through the legal wrangling of Beatrice attorney Facher (ROBERT DUVALL), Beatrice is removed from the lawsuit.

Jan and his partners spend all their money and even mortgage their homes to pay for the case.

THE ENDING:
Jan realizes they will not win the case and they settle with W.R. Grace for eight million dollars. After expenses and attorney fees the plaintiffs are left with around $369,000 for each family.

As a result of the stress of the case, Jan's law firm breaks up and Jan is left on his own, living in a run-down apartment with a small cheesy law practice. His Porsche is gone, his house is gone, his partners/friends are gone.

In desperation, he sends his case files to the Environmental Protection Agency. Several years later, the EPA fines both Beatrice and W. R. Grace $69 million dollars in fines.

Jan wins in the end, sort of.

WHAT EVERYONE WILL BE TALKING ABOUT:
The fact that the movie is based on a TRUE story and children died as a result of the negligence of two large corporations who had the resources to cover up the deeds and then defend the cover ups.


 
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