A Civil Action

by Jonathan Harr

Paperback, 1996




Vintage (1996), Edition: Reprint, 502 pages


Biography & Autobiography. Politics. True Crime. Nonfiction. HTML:#1 NATIONAL BESTSELLER ‚?Ę NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD WINNER ‚?Ę The true story of one man so determined to take down two of the nation's largest corporations accused of killing children from water contamination that he risks losing everything.  "The legal thriller of the decade." ‚??Cleveland Plain Dealer Described as ‚??a page-turner filled with greed, duplicity, heartache, and bare-knuckle legal brinksmanship" by The New York Times, A Civil Action is the searing, compelling tale of a legal system gone awry‚??one in which greed and power fight an unending struggle against justice. Yet it is also the story of how one man can ultimately make a difference.  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. With an unstoppable narrative power reminiscent of Truman Capote‚??s In Cold Blood, A Civil Action is an unforgettable reading experience that will leave the reader both shocked and enlightened.   A Civil Action was made into a movie starring John Travolta… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member gmicksmith
This is an involving story that is as gripping as a novel but it is more real, and insidious in that the tale of the inhabitants of this unfortunate town fell victim to corporate greed and irresponsibility. A civil action is an uncivil attempt by a corporation to hide and downplay the negative
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effects of polluting an average town in New England. The lesson to be drawn from this unfortunate episode is to grasp that it could happen to anyone, anywhere, if citizens are not vigilant about their rights and protect themselves.
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LibraryThing member missmelly
Well written, and extremely well researched. I couldn't put this book down!
LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
This is the story of a "civil action"--that is a law suit, a "tort" where a corporation was sued for dumping toxic wastes purportedly causing cancer among the residents of Woburn Massachusetts. Harr was definitely not even-handed. This is told primarily from the point of view of the plaintiff's
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lawyer, Jan Schlictman, and of course readers are going to identify with the ordinary people, not the rich corporations. But at least Harr didn't go entirely Erin Brokovich, but did present the reasons the defendants could argue the science behind the allegations was, shall we say, not necessarily solid. And so meticulous was Harr in explaining the entire process of a law suit from beginning to end, this was required reading in my One-L Civil Procedure class in law school. It made a rather fascinating introduction into the law.
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LibraryThing member christinejoseph
true story Woburn Case

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
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millions of dollars and ends up nearly losing everything, including his sanity.
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LibraryThing member drpeff
true story about a civil action lawsuit, good.
LibraryThing member booknivorous
Investigative journalism. Courtroom drama. David and Goliath. All factual. A great read that was turned into a terrible movie. Read this book, then go burn the movie.
LibraryThing member dka862
Legal case against big corporation causing cancer in poor town
LibraryThing member ctait17
read once before, saw the movie, intersting study of cancer causing pollution, sad but realistic ending, very good read
LibraryThing member vnovak
Insight into the world of big money lawsuits and the life of a lawyer who will give up everything to help a group of families affected by leukemia caused by chemical contamination. He is motivated by money, fame (to set a legal precedent) and compassion.
LibraryThing member bobbieharv
I read this while camping on an island in Maine, and I could hardly tear myself away to look at the view! One of the most well-done non-fiction books I've read: written like a thriller, but so carefully researched that know you're not reading made-up conversations or imputed thoughts and feelings.
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Perfect pace; fascinating characters.
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LibraryThing member peleluna
Pitch perfect illustration of the law in practice in all its beauty, mundane struggles, and the personal toll.
LibraryThing member dchaikin
A wow of a legal expose. Harr provides an incredible insight into our disturbing legal system in the face of clear, health-destroying pollution. This isn't just powerful journalism, it's special, a journalistic masterpiece.
LibraryThing member whitewavedarling
Smart, engaging, and well-written. It may seem overwhelming in length, but it goes quickly. If you're interested in legal matters intersecting with the environmental, or in environmental standards or creative nonfiction in general, I'd recommend this highly.
LibraryThing member SeriousGrace
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."
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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.
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LibraryThing member Rosenstern
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member BookConcierge
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.
LibraryThing member susandennis
A fascinating non-fiction bird's eye view of one court case and what it does to the people involved. REALLY interesting.
LibraryThing member JBGUSA
Excellent book, gripping at times. I myself am a lawyer. At the risk of this being a spoiler, taking a big case that looks appealing but has a long run-up to generating money is a major risk in the profession. Taking a matter that promises to be prominent and/or lucrative has major risks. The
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outlay for the case can be huge. Workers, taxing authorities and suppliers are not notably patient. What happened to Schlichtmann was needless.

There are two things I wonder: 1) Why did Schlictmann let his "lead counsel" out so easily; and 2) why the environmental movement did not help.

The "devils advocate" question for me is whether the people with Woburn are better off with their legal victory, and the polluting plants shuttered. That question makes me wonder.
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LibraryThing member Asperula
Second time around for this book, but it is such a wonderful example of how to tell a compelling story!
LibraryThing member trek520
A great book w/a great true story.


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