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A Civil Action by Jonathan Harr

A Civil Action (1995)

by Jonathan Harr

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A work of nonfiction that explores the circumstances around a civil suit filed in Massachusettes, which alleged that industrial pollution contaminated a town's drinking water supply, leading to an unusually high number of childhood leukemia cases. Fascinating reading. ( )
  BookConcierge | Feb 8, 2016 |
A great book w/a great true story. ( )
  trek520 | Dec 7, 2015 |
Utterly riveting for the first 3/4 of the book, and while I've worked as a legal assistant, I'm not a lawyer. In the final 1/4 of the book, the affair degenerates into an incompetent attorney being steamrolled by a competent if unlovely one, and the writing twists to keep the story meaningful. In the book's end, there's a note from the author. He started writing this before the trial began. It seems he hoped for a thrilling and triumphant conclusion, judging from the writing tone to a certain point, but when the story began turning out differently, he had to wrestle with it.

It didn't work. Skimmed the last quarter. Disappointed. The movie's better, and I don't say that lightly. Does seem fitting that John Travolta played the lead role therein. Three and a half stars. ( )
  GunnarGrey | Sep 16, 2015 |
The summary may sound interesting but trust me, unless you are a hardcore law fan or a law student, you will not enjoy this book. It documented the court case of two corporations who were accused of the dead of several children through contamination of the water. I recall the ending was so infuriating. The court case had become so confusingly obscure that the jury had trouble discerning the question asked of them. It was not a guilty/not guilty question, it was a question that asked the jury to provide a date and other such information. The jury made a mistake because of their understandable lack of knowledge of such a complicated civil case and the corporations got off free. ( )
  Rosenstern | Sep 14, 2014 |
This is the tragic true story about a group of Woburn, Massachusetts citizens and the lawsuit they filed against two major companies for dumping what they believed to be cancer-inducing chemicals into their drinking water. Instantly, I thought of 10,000 Maniacs and their song, "Poison in the Well." It's eerily similar. Residents know the water "tastes funny" and during certain times of the year they avoid consumption of it all together. Some go so far as to complain, but they are told the levels of toxins are negligible and nothing to worry about. It's only after Anne Anderson's child develops leukemia, and Anderson starts to notice multiple cases of the rare disease in her hometown, that she decides to hire an attorney, Jan Schlichmann. The rest that follows is a brutal court battle. There are times you think it's an open and shut case and other times when it's no so obvious. The depositions and testimonies leave you wanting to pull your hair out. Every single detail is covered in Harr's story. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Dec 4, 2013 |
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The lawyer Jan Schlichtmann was awakened by the telephone at eight-thirty on a Saturday morning in mid-July.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679772677, Paperback)

In America, when somebody does you wrong, you take 'em to court. W. R. Grace and Beatrice Foods had been dumping a cancer-causing industrial solvent into the water table of Woburn, Massachusetts, for years; in 1981, the families of eight leukemia victims sued. However, A Civil Action demonstrates powerfully that--even with the families' hotshot lawyers and the evidence on their side--justice is elusive, particularly when it involves malfeasance by megacorporations. Much of the legal infighting can cause the eyes to glaze. But the story is saved by great characters: the flawed, flamboyant Jan Schlichtmann and his group of bulldogs for the prosecution; Jerome Facher, the enigmatic lawyer for Beatrice, who proves to be more than a match; John J. Riley, the duplicitous, porcine tannery owner; and a host of others. It's impossible not to feel the drama of this methodical book, impossible not to grieve for the parents who lost children, and impossible not to share Schlichtmann's desperation as he runs out of money. A Civil Action reads like one long advertisement for a few well-placed Molotov cocktails. (But that wouldn't make for a very long book, now would it?)

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:49 -0400)

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"The legal thriller of the decade." --Cleveland Plain Dealer Now a Major Motion Picture! In this true story of an epic courtroom showdown, two of the nation's largest corporations stand accused of causing the deaths of children. Representing the bereaved parents, the unlikeliest of heroes emerges: a young, flamboyant Porsche-driving lawyer who hopes to win millions of dollars and ends up nearly losing everything, including his sanity. A searing, compelling tale of a legal system gone awry--one in which greed and power fight an unending struggle against justice--A Civil Action is also the story of how one determined man can ultimately make a difference. With an unstoppable narrative power, it is an unforgettable reading experience.… (more)

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