Upcoming Events
Upcoming Events Past Installments




A Civil Action stars two-time Academy Award nominee John Travolta (Saturday Night Fever, Pulp Fiction) as Boston personal injury attorney Jan Schlichtmann who brought the first (somewhat) successful toxic tort suit in U.S. history against corporate giants W.R. Grace and Beatrice Foods on behalf of the residents of Woburn, Massachusetts.  The suit alleged that Grace and Beatrice subsidiaries operating in Woburn had contaminated the groundwater that fed into a portion of the city's drinking water system.  The area became one of the first Superfund sites and remains on the EPA's Superfund National Priorities List.  Based on Jonathan Harr's truly outstanding book, for which plaintiffs' and defense counsel gave Harr virtually unrestricted access on the condition that he not publish his work until after limitations had run on all possible claims and appeals, A Civil Action provides remarkable insights into the civil litigation process -- from the first meeting between Schlichtmann and potential plaintiffs to the final resolution of the civil suit.  While the movie, directed by Academy Award-winning screenwriter Steven Zaillian (Schindler's List, Awakenings), does not live up to the National Book Critics Circle Award-winning book, which has been required reading in first-year civil procedure courses at law schools across the country since its publication in 1995, it is still worth watching.  Travolta gives an uncharacteristically nuanced portrayal of Schlichtmann.  Academy Award winner and five-time Academy Award nominee Robert Duvall (The Godfather, Tender Mercies), nominated for Best Supporting Actor for this film, plays Jerome Facher, a partner with Hale & Dorr (now Wilmer Hale) and lead counsel for Beatrice.  Bruce Norris (The Sixth Sense) plays William Cheeseman, a partner with Foley, Hoag & Eliot and lead counsel for W.R. Grace.  Two-time Academy Award nominee John Lithgow (The World According to Garp, 3rd Rock from the Sun) plays U.S. District Judge Walter J. Skinner.  The supporting cast also includes Academy Award nominee William H. Macy (Fargo, State and Main), Emmy and Golden Globe winner Tony Shalhoub (Monk, The Man Who Wasn't There), and Emmy winner Zeljko Ivanek (Damages, 24), Academy Award nominee Kathleen Quinlan (Apollo 13, Family Law), three-time Emmy winner James Gandolfini (The Sopranos, Get Shorty), Emmy nominee Dan Hedaya (Cheers, The First Wives' Club), and the late Academy Award-winning director/producer/actor Sydney Pollack (Out of Africa, Michael Clayton).

Discussion Leaders: Professors Jean Sternlight and Bret Birdsong



Stay tuned ...


Home ] Up ]

Send mail to keith.rowley@unlv.edu with questions or comments about this web site.
Copyright 2002 William S. Boyd School of Law, UNLV
Last modified: August 13, 2009