"A Civil Action", By Jonathan Harr And It's Effects On Civil Law.

1765 words - 7 pages

A CIVIL ACTIONThe legal system is an essential element in the successful operation of this country. It is a system that is utilized every day, by every type of person, from the average blue-collar worker to the average Wall Street broker. There is a multitude of ways that the legal system is put to use. One such way is the class action lawsuit. A Civil Action, by Jonathan Harr, uses the account of a single case, Anne Anderson, et al., v. W.R. Grace & Co., et al, to illustrate the power and importance of class action lawsuits in the civil justice system.The purpose of class action lawsuits is to give the common man the ability to take on the largest corporate or private entities, who can afford the very best legal services, and have a chance of redressing the wrong done by these entities (Clark, sec. 1). Without class action lawsuits, ordinary citizens acting individually would not have the means to challenge corporate and governmental wrongdoers.A Civil Action provides an in depth account of the life of one class action suit. It explores the role of the lawyer in litigating situations, focusing on the critical factor of proving causality. It brings to light numerous pitfalls encountered by both the prosecution and defense. In addition to exposing the potential pitfalls that can occur in a class action lawsuit, A Civil Action also touches on the motivation behind these cases. A definite motivation must exist for all persons involved in a class action lawsuit, since the uncertainty, stress, and pitfalls that accompany this form of civil action are tremendous.A Civil Action did not attempt to sugarcoat the process of trying a case such as the Woburn case. The complication were numerous and often hard to overcome. For the plaintiffs, the biggest hurdle faced was proving causality. Nearly all other obstacles Schlichtmann and his staff encountered were directly related to the attempt to prove causality.In a civil case, as opposed to a criminal case, winning is determined by the preponderance of evidence. In other words, the majority of the evidence must suggest finding for the plaintiff. Of course, the burden of proof remains on the plaintiffs, but as Professor Nesson explained in the book, the plaintiffs must prove only "that it is 'more than likely true than not' - a standard often taken to mean by 51 percent or better" (Harr 236). Although this is easier to achieve than proving beyond a reasonable doubt, it still has its difficulties. The harm must be linked to the behavior of the defendant, a factor often hard to prove.The attempt to link the harm to the behavior of the defendant produced its share of successes and failures for the Schlichtmann team. Not only did the plaintiffs have to prove that the corporations contaminated the water, but they also had to show that the contamination caused the leukemia and the other health problems. To do this they enlisted the help and expertise of numerous doctors and specialists. Naturally the defending...

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