A Civil Action
In the early 198Os, a lawsuit was filed against several companies that operated in or around the small town of Woburn, Massachusetts. The plaintiffs were families who believed that the defendant corporations had contaminated the community’s drinking water resulting in the tragic loss of numerous children. The defendants included W.R. Grace and Beatrice Foods. The events leading up to and including the civil trial are depicted in the movie A Civil Action.
Your assignment is to watch the movie A Civil Action starring John Travolta and write a 5-6 page paper about a specific component of the American legal system and the civil litigation process. You will do so by responding to the questions listed below. You may organize the order of the paper as you see fit. When addressing the questions compare what is illustrated in the movie with what you have learned about the civil trial process throughout the course. A copy of the movie is on reserve at the library for your convenience.
Questions for Analysis
a. a. When a plaintiff files a lawsuit in the civil court system, he/she makes a demand for relief. The law of remedies is concerned with the type and extent of relief plaintiffs may recover. The plaintiffs in A Civil Action brought a lawsuit to recover both legal and equitable remedies. Legal remedies in the film included both economic and non-economic damages. Identify and discuss the different remedies involved in the lawsuit highlighted in the film and the purpose of each remedy.
b. b. A jury in a civil lawsuit takes on a very specific function. Discuss the role of the jury in relation to an award of remedies in a civil lawsuit. How do juries calculate economic and non-economic damage awards? Do you believe that a jury in a civil case is equipped to handle this role or should the role be delegated to another group or individual? Discuss why or why not. Are juries more capable of determining economic versus non-economic damages? Was the jury in A Civil Action equipped to make a decision regarding remedies? Be certain to explain each response thoroughly.
c. c. The tort reform movement in the United States is controversial because it aims to place caps or limits on damage awards in civil cases. Discuss the tort reform movement in the United States including when it began and what changes have been instituted in recent years. Identify the advantages and disadvantages of limiting relief and whether or not you believe lawmakers should place caps on damage awards in civil suits. If so, what parameters would be appropriate to limit the plaintiff’s recovery? For instance, should recovery be limited in all types of civil cases (medical malpractice, personal injury…) or just in just certain cases? Should all damages (economic and non-economic) be limited in civil suits or should specific types of damage awards be capped? If you conclude that damages should never be limited in civil actions, explain why. In order to adequately address this question, you will need to research sources beyond the text and the film. You should research at least two outside sources including periodicals such as scholarly journals, professional or trade journals, newspapers and magazines.
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a. d. Once you have answered the questions set out above, identify two states that has placed a cap/limit on damage awards. Describe what types of damages each state limited, the specific limits imposed, and the overall impact these limits have had on civil litigation. Do you believe such limits are beneficial or detrimental to the civil justice system?
I encourage you to watch the movie with others including your family members, classmates and friends. If time permits, portions of the movie will be shown during a class session. Discuss the above questions with anyone you like. When it comes to writing the paper, including any drafts or outlines, you must sit down alone and put your thoughts on paper. Do not write with anyone else, or read what others have written. Review other sources when researching the topics including information available Internet. Be certain to cite all of your source(s) appropriately and include a Works Cited page. Copies of the complaint, answer and other court pleadings filed in the matter of Anne Anderson v. Beatrice Foods, the case upon which this film is based, may be accessed on the Internet.
Your paper must include a cohesive analysis of the questions presented. Your grade will be based on your research, analysis and discussion of the questions/topics presented and how well you express your ideas.