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In the year 1986, Jan Schilichtman filed a civil law suit against a mega corporation, Beatrice Foods Co. and W.R Grace. The Mega Corporation was allegedly accused of negligently as well as illegally dumping chemical waste that was highly toxic in Woburn Massachusetts. The toxin waste that was dumped on the factory’s grounds had allegedly leached into the soil and through the gravitational forces as well as soil erosion made their way into the Woburn Municipal water supply. The toxic wastes in this case were tetrachloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE) which allegedly resulted to the acquisition of illnesses such as leukemia and many deaths followed. (Rosoff , Pontell,. and R Tillman, 2009)

Facts and evidence

According to Rosoff (2009), between the years, 1968 to the mid 1980’s, there had occurred twenty-eight diagnosis of leukemia cases, whereby out of the possible twenty eight, eight were children who died of the disease.

In 1972, two municipal wells were discovered by a state investigator who discovered that both wells were contaminated by tetrachloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE). The wells were closed down.( Koscielski, 2001).

In 1976, three possible polluters of Woburn’s drinking water were pin pointed by the EPA. They included UniFirst that was a dry-cleaning operation, Beatrice Foods and Company that owned a tannery, and a machine plant that was owned by W.R Grace.

In the year 1982,Schlichman representing the families of eight deceased children filed a complaint in the civil court. The judge that was presiding in this case was Judge Walker Skinner whose pre-trial decision had the effect of effectively disallowing the testimony given by the victims. The decision also was bias as the judge instructed the jury to answer questions, which they could not effectively comprehend..( Koscielski, 2001).

Discovery phase

The discovery phase lasted for four years, from 1982 to 1986.In 1986; the case was moved to a federal district court. According to Fuchs (1996), despite spending millions, he was unable to prove to the court beyond any reasonable doubt that leukemia was caused by the direct ingestion of TCE and PCE. (Fuchs,1996). In this respect the, jury made a decision which found W.R Grace liable for municipal well’s contamination. On the other hand, Beatrice was found not liable. Having spent millions in the discovery phase and lacking financial resources Schlichtmann was compelled to settle for $8million from W.R Grace an amount, which he had refused from Beatrice. The site that was polluted and contaminated was not cleaned up in the end. (Kennedy,1998)

According to, Fitzgibbons (2000) in 1988, new evidence was uncovered by Schlictmann that the toxic sludge from Beatrice tannery was moved secretly. The case was heard in the court of appeal, which ordered the new hearings to start in 1990.

In 1990 despite the new uncovered evidence, the judge discounted the evidence and relied on the testimony of a chemist hired by Beatrice.

White-collar crimes are committed by persons of high social and economic status in the course of their occupation as it was in the case of W.R Grace. However, the law and the public pressure may be one of the remedies to deal with such and protect the environment. Through mistakes of the past such what happened in the Woburn case, civil action might be used to avert environmental calamities.


Fitzgibbons,J.,(2000) A Decade After the Woburn Toxic Waste Case, Chemist Still Ponders Truth, Justice. Web.

Fuchs, E.,(1996) Woburn’s Burden of Proof: Corporate Social Responsibility and Public Health, Web.

Kennedy D. (1998) Behind and beyond the hype over A Civil Action. New York, NY: Knopf. Web.

Koscielski, G., (2001) Environmental Law: Case No. 1:Anne Anderson et. al. v. W.R. Grace et al. Web.

Rosoff S, Pontell,. and Tillman,R,. (2009)Profit Without Honor: White-Collar Crime and the Looting of America. Pearson, Prentice Hall

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