Last Updated on February 20, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1317
Jerome Facher is a Harvard Law School professor and the chairman of the litigation department at the firm Hale and Dorr. People come from all over to take his courses and “learn from the master.” He lives alone in Arlington and uses all of his waking hours to work.
Facher doesn’t like to work in his office. Having turned down several opportunities for better views, he finds himself working in “hideouts” around the building, his favorite being a twenty-first-floor storage closet. In May of 1982, Facher is hired to represent Beatrice Foods in the Woburn case. He starts the work by sending Neil Jacobs, one of his former law students and a junior partner at the firm, to Woburn to speak with the manager and former owner of the Riley Tannery.
Jacobs speaks with Riley, who sold the family business to Beatrice, because he was forced by ordinance to spend one million dollars to build a waste treatment plant. However, the plant was never built. Riley denies that the tannery uses TCE and drives Jacobs to the land in question. On the drive, Jacobs sees several 55-gallon barrels decaying into the ground and leaking a dark substance. There is a harsh chemical smell in the air. Jacobs asks Riley about the barrels. Riley claims the barrels are from Whitney Barrel, and that he has never dumped any waste.
Jacobs asks about Riley’s relationship with Jack Whitney, owner of Whitney Barrel. Riley states that Whitney used to house tanks on Riley’s land but because he didn’t run a clean business, Riley told Whitney to remove his property.
Back at the office, Jacobs compiles a response to Schlichtman and Roisman’s complaint, negating Whitney Barrel’s potential involvement in the Woburn case. Facher approves of his work.
The narrator describes Grace, focusing on the company’s multiple lawsuits regarding contamination. The company has hired a lawyer named William Cheeseman, a senior partner at Boston’s Foley, Hoag & Eliot, to deal with the Woburn case. Grace tells Cheeseman to use whatever resources he needs “to stop this case in its tracks.”
Cheeseman gets to work and learns that Grace did use TCE. However, only one 55-gallon drum was purchased, not enough to produce the amount of waste needed to contaminate two wells. A Grace executive plays the tape of Schlichtmann speaking to the news about the case, and Cheeseman finds the interview highly unprofessional. Cheeseman decides to get the case moved from state to federal court, given the national spectrum of Grace’s businesses. He then writes a letter to Schlichtmann and Roisman advising them to drop the case.
Cheeseman never receives a response from his letter and figures that Schlichtmann must have dropped the case. However, in October, Cheeseman receives 52-pages of questions he legally has to answer within 30 days. Cheeseman refuses to respond, using Rule 11 as a scapegoat. Rule 11, when invoked, allows a case to be dropped based on a lack of real evidence with which to file the complaint in the first place. The rule is meant to stop “sham” and “frivolous” lawsuits from making it into courtrooms.
As Cheeseman begins drafting his response, he calls Jacobs and suggests they should work together, since they are co-defendants in the case. Jacobs tells Cheeseman he will talk to Facher and call him back.
While the case revolves around the diagnoses of children, there are more leukemia cases in Woburn. Roland Gamache, who lives near the Zona family, contracted chronic myelogenous leukemia at thirty-five. Joan Zona eventually asks the Gamaches to join the other families in the lawsuit. After some time, the Gamaches agree, because they want their children and their town to have clean water.
Months later, Roland is making plans to take his son and friends to a Bruins game and needs two more seats. He learns that Riley...
(The entire section contains 1317 words.)
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