Now that husband-and-wife attorney team Wes and Mary Grace Payton have won a forty-one-million-dollar verdict in the seventy-one-day Baker v. Krane Chemical trial, they can take their children out for pizza. As recounted in John Grisham’s The Appeal, it has been four long years since the couple had taken the case that was to cast them into bare-bones poverty. They are deeply in debt, living in a run-down campus apartment, practicing law in a shabby office whose rent has not been paid in months, employing a courageous staff that has gone without wages, and dreading the appearance of the banker to whom they owe four hundred thousand dollars. Before the trial, their life had been replete with a luxury home and sports cars. Luckily, they have a friend in minister Denny Ott, who also provides spiritual sustenance to the victims of Krane Chemical’s toxic dumping in the water supply of Bowmore, Mississippi.
After hearing the “guilty” verdict, the primary victim, Jeannette Baker, who lost her husband and young son to cancer, finally stops crying. Although her grief provided her with courage throughout the lengthy and excruciating trial, she nevertheless has no faith that she will ever see a penny of her enormous verdict and continues to live in her trailer so she can visit the graves of her loved ones. The other victims, many in advanced stages of cancer, are eager to finalize the case in order to experience a modicum of personal satisfaction in the just verdict and to have some much needed financial relief.
Simultaneously, Wall Street billionaire Carl Trudeau, the chief executive officer of Krane Chemical, is apoplectic about Krane’s plummeting stock and his loss of the case. He never pauses to think about the cancer rate in Bowmore, which has skyrocketed to fifteen times the national average and which has been caused by his company’s illegal dumping of chemical waste into the town’s water supply. He simply carries out his luxurious lifestyle with his bubble-headed, anorexic trophy wife, Brianna. On the evening of the punishing verdict, he attends a highbrow party at which he buys a hideous piece of dubious art for twenty million dollars. After all, he will never give the others on the Forbes world’s wealthiest list the satisfaction of seeing him cringe over his enormous financial losses. Trudeau fully realizes if the verdict is not overturned, all the other victims will come forward for a bite of what he considers his exclusive pie. On a balcony overlooking New York City, Trudeau vows to win back his money and gain much, much moreafter the appeal.
Another player in these legal and financial high jinks is Barry Rinehart, a nefarious, behind-the-scenes fixer who, in a secret meeting with Trudeau, promises him a bought-and-paid-for judge to be elected to the Supreme Court of Mississippi. Rinehart’s man, Tony Zachary, has located a squeaky-clean, churchgoing, baseball-coach local attorney who can easily be elected with a campaign chest of three million dollars funded by various special-interest groups in Washington, D.C., who are intent on crippling trial lawyers by bringing about legislation that places limits on monetary awards in lawsuits. Trudeau jumps at Rinehart’s bait. After all, this is Trudeau’s opportunity to recoup his loss and make billions more by purposely causing Krane Chemical’s stock to fall. He will buy as much stock as possible at deflated prices and sit back and watch his bottom line grow bigger and bigger after his own newly elected judge overturns the Baker v. Krane Chemical verdict.
Meanwhile, attorney Ron Fisk has been approached by Zachary, Rinehart’s henchman, promising Fisk a seat on the Mississippi Supreme Court. Zachary assures Fisk, a conservative, that he has been selected to run against the incumbent judge Shelia McCarthy because he is a family-values type of guy, with no skeletons in his closet. After all, McCarthy, Zachary...
(The entire section is 1615 words.)