Movies that are "based on actual events" are usually not the same as the real events upon which they are based. "A Civil Action" is one of these movies. The basic points covered in the movie are the same. However there were some key elements from the trial left out of the movie. These elements were some of the crucial errors made by Schlichtmann that led to him losing the case.
The basic main events are the same as they were portrayed in the movie. The trial did last for 78 days in which the verdict of the jury was thrown out and a new trial was ordered. That led to the out of court settlement of eight million dollars because neither party wanted to redo the trial. Also Schlichtmann's law office couldn't afford a new trial. They were out of money. Schlichtmann's appeal of the case against Beatrice Foods depleted everything that he had left which resulted in him filing for bankruptcy. Al Love was portrayed well in the movie. He was the only W.R. Grace employee to come forward and tell the truth about chemicals dumped on the company's property. Despite all of these similarities there were more crucial differences.
One major difference that was not portrayed was how Schlichtmann made several errors in the trial, failing to get evidence into the record and making a mistake with his expert witness on ground water, Professor George Pinder. It was Pinder's flawed testimony, which let Beatrice Foods off the hook. Another major distortion of the facts is in the movie when Schlichtmann boxes up all his court documents and ships them to EPA in Washington to be stored in a huge warehouse. The film implies that is was Schlichtmann's evidence that brought the EPA into the case. That is completely wrong. The EPA was involved from day one. It was the EPA and that state that ordered the barrels buried on W.R. Grace's property to be excavated. Al Facher never offered a $20 million out of court settlement to the families while the lawyers were awaiting the jury's verdict. One...
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