The Woodshed

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Last Updated on February 20, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1302

Schlichtmann’s office is a “war zone.” Every room is filled with documentation on the Woburn case. He hires two recent law grads, a paralegal, and other support staff from a temp agency to help prepare for trial. Schlichtmann needs full medical histories on each of the thirty-three Woburn residents and puts twenty-two-year-old receptionist Patti D’Addieco in charge of the task.

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Schlichtmann flies in an occupational and environmental specialist named Shirley Conibear, who agrees to see and assess all of the twenty-eight living residents in the case. The final report costs Schlichtmann almost ninety thousand dollars, but it shows a correlation between health issues and the timeline of wells G and H contamination. Conibear feels this evidence is not a coincidence, because the families’ health issues fit the criteria for TCE exposure.

On Conibear’s recommendation, Schlichtmann gets cardiologist Saul Cohen to provide a cardiac workup on the families. His services cost Schlichtmann over fifty-five thousand dollars, but the data shows that all candidates have irregular heartbeats, which he finds “quite striking.” 

Even with this data, it’s hard to prove that the Woburn families were suffering from these health issues strictly because of TCE, but Conibear believes there is a correlation based on the known health effects from TCE use. Schlichtmann calls Feldman, the neurologist he used in the Carney case, and asks him to review the evidence. Feldman has written many articles and published groundbreaking work on the effects of TCE. He’s skeptical, but he says he can run the same tests on the Woburn families that he did for workers exposed to TCE. It will cost Schlichtmann thousands, but Schlichtmann fully believes he has cracked this case; he simply needs the evidence to prove it.

The results of Feldman’s testing aren’t all dramatic, but they aren’t normal. The most significant data comes from the blink test. The doctor who runs the test has no background about the Woburn families. She is so concerned with the results that she makes random hospital employees take the test to ensure something isn’t wrong with the machine. Feldman feels the odds of such a group producing such results are “a million to one.” 

Schlichtmann is connected with a biochemist in California, Beverly Paigen, who worked on a case about TCE exposure that is similar to the Woburn case. While she thinks the drinking water is part of the problem, she has realized that TCE turns to vapor in the shower, causing inhalation exposure. This information leads Schlichtmann to a toxicologist who confirms this finding. He shows Schlichtmann a new study about how TCE is absorbed through the skin while showering. Schlichtmann can now prove significant exposure: drinking water, skin absorption, and TCE vapor in the shower. He may not be able to link the chemical to leukemia, but he feels he has enough evidence to show that more kids would have survived if not for TCE, based on the data about weak immune systems.

Schlichtmann wants his team to be on the same page, so he rents out the Ritz ballroom and brings his entire team of doctors together. Conway is getting worried. The bills are piling up, and they have to borrow money from the bank. Schlichtmann calls on their financial advisors, James Gordon and Mark Phillips. 

Gordon has been working with Schlichtmann since the Piper Arrow case, and his company has since become an extension of Schlichtmann’s firm. Schlichtmann has already spent a million dollars, and by Gordon’s estimates, he will probably need another half million to finish this case. Gordon takes Schlichtmann to see “Uncle Pete,” whose real name is George Kennedy Briggs II. He is the vice president at the Private Banking Group at the Bank of Boston. Uncle Pete has...

(The entire section contains 1302 words.)

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