SECTION D (IIM B)
FILM REVIEW FOR PART FULFILLMENT OF THE COURSE REQUIREMENTS OF BUSINESS, GOVERNMENT AND SOCIETY
FILM-A CIVIL ACTION
STARRING-JOHN TRAVOLTA, ROBERT DUVALL, KATHLEEN QUINLAN
DIRECTED BY-STEVEN ZAILLIAN
“A dead adult in his twenties is generally worth less than one who is middle-aged. A dead woman, less than a dead man. A single man, less than one who is married. Black less than white. Poor less than white. The perfect victim is a white male professional, forty years old, at the height of his earning power-struck down in his prime”- the opening monologue rolls stylishly off the tongue of Jan Schlichtmann, the successful personal injury lawyer in the movie, portrayed by John Travolta. The film is adapted from the book by Jonathan Harr and is based on an incident concerning leukaemia cases caused by the pollution of the water resources of Woburn, Massachusetts by effluents from a local tannery. Jan Schlichtmann along with his group of associates runs a boutique law firm that works on a “no win, no fee” policy. He is renowned for his legal acumen and the ability to force hefty settlements on behalf of his clients. However, his prime motivation is the commission from such cases and he feels no empathy for his clients though he feigns otherwise. Jan is widely considered to be one of the most eligible bachelors in Boston and is invited as a guest on a radio programme where he receives a call from Anne Anderson, a resident of Woburn. Anne’s child died in the early 80’s, one of the twelve reported cases of leukemia in the town. She strongly believes that the cases of leukemia and other health disorders are strongly linked to the pollution of water sources by factories in and around the area and requests Jan to take up the case against the suspects. She makes it very clear that she is not interested in a monetary settlement but rather wants the perpetrators to realize the implications of their malpractices and to initiate requisite corrective measures. Jan feels that taking up the case would be an unprofitable venture for his firm and conveys the same to Anne when he goes to meet her in Woburn. However, on his way back he discovers that the local tannery, apparently behind the pollution has close links with two renowned corporate houses- Beatrice Foods Ltd. and W.R. Grace and Company. A lawsuit related to negligent practices could easily run into millions. Realising the financial implications involved, Jan changes his stance and delves into the case with all his resources. The movie follows the twists and turns of the case, involving the affected families, as Jan is up against a seasoned lawyer, Jerome Facher who defends Beatrice Foods. Facher shrewdly manages to get his client absolved. Jan, meanwhile has a change of heart and in stark contrast to his initial stance, starts empathizing with the families of Woburn, who have lost near and dear ones to leukemia. He continues his crusade against the other defendant despite severe financial crunches. Jan starts believing that a monetary compensation would hardly serve as balm for the bereaved families in search of absolution. He rejects settlement offers and strongly pushes for a cleanup of the contaminated resources in line with the wishes of his clients. His associates break company with him and Jan is left with no option but to accept a settlement on behalf of the families. However, Jan’s mission is accomplished when the Environmental protection Agency files a successful lawsuit, based on evidence that Jan had passed on. Riley, the owner of the tannery, is found to have deliberately concealed evidence in the previous trial. His tannery was dismantled in 1990. W.R.Grace is indicted by the jury for making false statements to the EPA regarding its use if trichloroethylene, acetone and toluene. The two companies are forced to pay approximately 70 million dollars towards a cleanup of the area. By and large, Steven Zaillian...