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While watching the movie, A Civil Action, I identified a few legal issues that stood out to me within the movie. One was negligence and the other, an ethical dilemma. I found that the two companies, Grace and Beatrice, knowingly dumped toxic chemical solvents for years and made no attempt to clean up or contain the toxic chemical waste. This shows negligence as they take no action to properly take care of their waste.
The other issue, the ethical dilemma involves Mr. Granger, the driver for a local trucking company. He was hired by the J. Riley Leather Company to drive the truck that dumped barrels of toxic solvents in the river. Mr. Granger not only knew that he was dumping dangerous toxins, but also knew there was a case against J. Riley Leather Company, but never came forward as an eyewitness during the entire trial process. After the case with W.R. Grace is settled, Jan stumbles upon the fact that J. Riley Leather did not dump the toxic waste itself but rather hired a 3rd party to do so. After further investigation, Jan uncovers the payments made to the trucking company. He confronts Mr. Granger, who finally discloses that Mr. Riley, the owner of J. Riley Leather Company, gave him a pair of Boston Celtics tickets and instructed him to “keep his mouth shut” about the transportation of the waste. In my view, Mr. Granger should have come forward as an eyewitness when he knew there was an ongoing case against J. Riley. He shouldn’t have accepted the Celtics tickets and kept quiet about what he knew for so long. Jan had an eyewitness who came forward against W.R. Grace, but he did not have any eyewitness against Beatrice Foods.
The case against Beatrice Foods would have been much stronger and might not have been dismissed if Mr. Granger had come forward. Although Mr. Granger was associated to the dumping of the toxins, ultimately, he wasn’t responsible for the toxins killing 8 kids; the companies Grace and Beatrice was. Grace and Beatrice Company were both aware that the toxic solvents they disposed were toxic and very dangerous. They ignored this fact and did nothing to prevent the chemicals from contaminating the city’s drinking water. Furthermore, they tried to cover up their actions even while people were getting sick and dying. They should have taken responsibility and done everything in their power to clean up the water, but they chose not to. I believe Mr. Riley was an even worse offender as he had ties in the community. He knew the residents of Woburn, but still tried to cover up the disposal.
All in all, watching the movie was a good way to learn about many ethical issues that occur in the real world. I learned a lot about civil action lawsuit and many ethical issues that can occur during the trial process. I now realize that lawyers and law processes are very expensive, and a lot of money is needed to fight a civil case against powerful defendants with “deep pockets.” It’s costly for both the prosecutors and the defendants. I also learned it’s important to look at the environmental impact of all corporate activities. Many big companies neglect the environmental side effect for the short-term profit, but it ends up costing millions of dollars in lawsuits later on and may even cause the company to go out of business.
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