A Civil Action – Movie

Published: 2021-09-13 16:15:10
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The Marxist approach can best explain the process and outcome of the case in A Civil Action. Section 1: Karl Marx sided with three principles regarding law and how it relates to the upper and lower classes in society. They are: law is a product of evolving economic forces; law is a tool used by the ruling class to maintain its power over the lower class and the means of production are owned by the ruling class. Marx believed that law is a structure of power. In this case the victims of families were the working class and the powerful corporations such as Beatrice Foods and W. R.
Grace and Company are the ruling class. These two companies own their means of production meaning they do not need resources from others in order to keep their businesses running smoothly. Facher and Cheeseman, the defendants of the case, knew that the opposing side was not set financially. This gave them the opportunity to draw out the case as long as possible while Schlichtmann’s firm would be struggling to get by financially day by day. Not only to the defendants control the means of production but also they had professionals to clean up the “dirty” work that could possibly cause harm to others.
This way it is even more difficult to find flaws in the company and reveal their mistakes. However this case does relate to a Marxist approach when dealing with the conflict theory. Marx believed that the bourgeoisie would always rule over the proletariat unless the members of proletariat would rise up and rebel against the ruling class. The case from this movie relates to Marx’s conflict theory because it shows what the working class had to rebel against. At first Anne Anderson and other affected families did not agree that $8 million was enough in the settlement.
The bourgeoisie in A Civil Action committed crimes of dumping toxic waste and illegally withholding information. All of the complaining by families about the settlement not being enough forced Jan Schlichtmann to go back to the “board” and find more information on the case. Eventually Schlichtmann found enough information to find that the defendant’s were guilty, but it was financially hard for him to start an appeals case with no other lawyers on his side. His lawyers within the firm left after they decided the firm was not working collectively as a team.
This case relates to Marx’s theory because the working class families in the movie eventually get a settlement that they deserve after the losses that occurred to them. The two huge corporations admitted that they had done wrong and also provided funds in hopes of the situation not happening again. Section 2: The research for this lawsuit begins when Anne Anderson’s son dies of leukemia. She believes that there are a number of harmful toxins that are dumped into the river that is connected to the city’s drinking water located in Woburn, Massachusetts.
Between 15 years after the first incident, 12 children around the city of Woburn die from the effects of leukemia. Other families agreed with Anne Anderson that their children contracted leukemia from drinking the city’s water through the tap available in homes. Anne Anderson gets all of the families’ children who die from leukemia to group together and get Jan Schlichtmann to represent them as their lawyer. When Anne Anderson and other affected families presented their situation to Schlichtmann, they said they would be content with an apology from the responsible party.
Schlichtmann knows that him and his small firm, Schlichtmann Conway & Crowley, need lots of money in order to get an apology from whoever was responsible for contaminating the city’s water. Despite the need for more money in a large case like this, Jan Schlichtmann and his firm stop working on all cases except the Anne Anderson at el. , case. His firm began to have no other income for the expenses of the case. In this situation, Schlichtmann’s firm decides to pursue Beatrice Foods and the W. R. Grace and Company for the losses of children these families had to deal with.
Originally when this case was presented to the major firms in the area, no one wanted accept the case. It was unwanted, so it became known as orphan case because it was believed that there would be no financial gain from the case. Similar to an orphan waiting to be brought into a home, there were many victims waiting to be brought justice by a lawyer. With this case being a civil case and a personal injury lawyer on the plaintiff’s side, there was room for questions about why Jan Schlichtmann wanted to take this case. Many personal injury lawyers are viewed in the public as bottom feeders or vultures that prey on the misfortunes of others.
For example, in the beginning of the film there is a scene where Schlichtmann sees a man holding his head after a car accident. The lawyer from Cornell (Schlichtmann) instantly gives the man in pain his business and tells him to call him (for financially pursuing the person who inflicted the pain). The case involving Anne Anderson and other families who had children that died from leukemia because of the water’s city was the least concerns of any law firms. This was due to the fact that representing dead children in court will provide the least amount of financial gain.
The perfect victim for a civil attorney is a “white male professional struck down at the height of his career”. A dead person is less valuable compared to a severely maimed person. A middle aged man is more valuable compared to someone that is in their mid 20’s. A woman is less valuable that a man; A single person is less valuable than a married one. A rich person is more valuable than a poor person, while being a black victim is less valuable than being white victim. Civil court is where the money lies within the justice system. Civil actions cases are worth more than criminal cases. 5% of all cases are civil cases with criminal cases being the lowest percentage of any case to occur. Many firms were afraid to go after the big corporations on the opposition but not Schlichtmann. Jan Schlichtmann, Kevin Conway and Bill Crowley represent the plaintiffs. A financial advisor in the firm also accompanies them. The main two lawyers that represent the defendants are Jerome Facher (Beatrice Foods) and Will Cheeseman (W. R. Grace and Company). The defendants had millions of dollars to use for the case while Schlichtmann’s firm had a hard ime paying for an type of evidence that was found using their resources. The lawyers solely handled the case and a jury decided the outcomes. Lawyers decide how to approach cases and arguments rather than the victims choose what points to argue and what not to argue. If a settlement occurs or is close to occurring lawyers have the decision to claim the price they want or continue to negotiate. Each lawyer has intimate relationships within the system. There are a few more people involved with the case such as the Judge Walker Skinner, prosecutors, police and jurors.
Upon examination of the Schlichtmann firm it seems as if the three lawyers and the financial advisor operate as a unit because of the similarities of being lawyers and dealing with the same issues in their firm. But if a person were to examine how effectively the group acts on a constant basis, things are not as easy as it seems. When it came time to settle the Schlichtmann firm was given two opportunities. The first meeting for a settlement Jan Schlichtmann asked for $320 million in order to pay themselves, the families’ suffering and a create a clean up project. Jan’s firm partners looked shocked when he started going over $25 million.
The defendants instantly deny the settlement offer and have their minds set on getting the case tried in a courtroom. By the end of the case the highest settlement offer Schlichtmann’s firm offered was a settlement of $8 million. At first Jan did not want to settle at $8 million even though the financial advisor said $8 million would get everyone financially stable again. Everyone except for Jan did not want to take the $8 million for a settlement. About a week later they end up accepting the settlement due to the fact that the Schlichtmann firm was so broke that they were close to filing bankruptcy.
These two miscommunications about settlements shows that the firm is not as perfect as it seems. If the lawyers within the firm cannot discuss and come to agreements with lawyers in the firm, they are not working as a cohesive group. These lawyers that are in Schlichtmann’s firm act as friends but only because they have to in order to achieve a common goal; win the case to make money. The social status of these players places them at the top of the list because they are white middle age males with important professions, being lawyers.
As the movie goes on, there is a trend that the lawyers do not go home even to sleep or eat. Most of the time, they are in the work place and work in a sense becomes the home facility. In the community all those who know and understand the importance of being a lawyer respect these lawyers. The people in Schlichtmann’s firm are all integrated into the community in two ways. The first way is because they are a firm that files civil suits, giving them the option to help people in the community. The second way they are integrated in the community is through the status of the firm.
Schlichtmann & Co is a small firm that limits their options when it comes down to what case they are going to stick with. The firm does not have many resources so it does not look to represent national corporations in lawsuits but rather individuals or small families within Massachusetts who need some financial aid. In order to become a successful lawyer the saying goes “it’s not what you know, its who you know”. The better networking a lawyer has, it makes it easier for them to obtain resources to further a case. In the justice system, there are many people who have Ivy League law degrees giving lawyers a chance to connect with the judges.
Since many judges were former prosecutors, they may have a connection to lawyers that approach their stand and may tend to agree with their statements. For example, the networking obtained from having an Ivy League degree can boost the chances of that person winning a case. People that graduate with a professional degree from an Ivy League school are sought after in the real world. There are constant email blasts from Ivy League graduates to fellow graduates about job offerings or help offered within the community of the graduate pool.
In A Civil Action, there is a scene where Jan Schlichtmann gets invited to the Harvard Club (of Law) in New York by one of the Grace executives named Al Eustis. Al Eustis is a Harvard graduate and assumes that Schlichtmann is a Harvard graduate as well because he received information from a friend stating that. When Schlichtmann arrives to the Harvard Club he makes it clear that he is not to be confused with a Harvard graduate because he received his law degree from Cornell University. After hearing this information, Al Eustis’s whole body language changed and Jan went from being the Harvard friend to the Cornell enemy.
Eustis almost tries to deny Schlichtmann and does not hear what he has to say simply because he went to a rival school, Cornell3. Eustis refuses to settle at anything over $8 million because he feels that the company would be coming off as guilty by settling a case with anything over that price. If Schlichtmann had been in the same situation but been a Harvard graduate the settlement probably would have gone up and Eustis would have been more friendly and open to hearing any information. The relationship between the plaintiff’s lawyers and defendant’s lawyers is a complicated one. “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer”.
This is how lawyers feel when dealing with the opposing side (enemy). Each lawyer from the case knows the same amount of background information but each player also has information that they do not want the opposing side to know about. Lawyers approach a lawsuit as if it is war. First, there is a declaration of “war” meaning the plaintiff provides details on why they are suing the defendant. Then there is a battle. Players that are dealing with the case risk a lot financially and emotionally but the chances of winning give the lawyers a reason to stay involved with the case. It is all a game and the winner takes all.

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