A CIVIL ACTION
Life Imitates Art
Throughout production, many of the real-life people portrayed on screen visited the film sets and mingled with the cast and crew: Jan Schlichtmann and his former partners, Kevin Conway, Bill Crowley and James Gordon; Beatrice attorney Jerome Facher; W
Throughout production, many of the real-life
people portrayed on screen visited the film sets and mingled with
the cast and crew: Jan Schlichtmann and his former partners, Kevin
Conway, Bill Crowley and James Gordon; Beatrice attorney Jerome
Facher; W.R. Grace attorney William Cheeseman; Grace employee
Al Love; and all eight Woburn families (the plaintiffs) including
two leukemia survivors. Even the private investigator who repossessed
Schlichtmann's Porsche ten years ago ironically showed up.
"Meeting Jan was an interesting reference point to see if
I was hitting my notes," says Travolta, "but with the
families, I tried to give them joy in my celebrity. I never asked
a lot of questions because I felt everything was clear in the
script and I didn't want to stir up memories. However, Anne Anderson
told me that when her son Jimmy was living, his favorite show
was 'Welcome Back Kotter' and his favorite character was mine."
"I think we've been blessed with John Travolta and I wanted
to share that with him. He's certainly been very sensitive,"
Where Are They Now?
When the Woburn case ended in 1989, Jan Schlichtmann was financially
destitute and spiritually beaten. With just enough money for plane
fare- which he borrowed from his good friend Tom Kiley-Schlichtmann
fled to the island of Kauai.
But he is back in Boston and life today is relatively great for
the 47-year-old attorney. He is married to Claudia Barragan, a
woman he met during the appeal of the Woburn case. They have two
sons and live in a beautiful home overlooking the ocean in the
suburb of Beverly.
Schlichtmann is also practicing law again. He formed a new partnership
with Tom Kiley and is currently involved in two environmental
cases similar to Woburn: one in Tom's River, New Jersey; the other
near the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, N.Y. His tactics
favor mediation over litigation. And he's hit the lecture circuit-
addressing law students and environment groups around the country.
As for the rest of Schlichtmann's legal team: Kevin Conway and
Bill Crowley are practicing personal injury law together in Boston.
Former legal accountant James Gordon has relocated to Pasadena,
California, where he serves as a managing director of the international
firm The Investigate Group International (IGI), co-chairing their
computer and technology practice group.
"Woburn left me drifting down the infamous and bottomless
'black hole' with over $400,000 in debt, no job, no income, and
worst of all, no vision for the future," says Gordon. "Now
that I am back on my feet professionally, personally and financially,
the movie provides a unique form of compensation for those times.
As we always tried to tell Grace and Beatrice, compensation does
not always need to be measured in economic terms."
Jerome Facher, now 73, continues to practice law at the same Boston
law firm he joined in 1959, the prestigious Hale and Dorr. He
specializes in trials and appeals before state and federal courts.
William Cheeseman, now 55, remains a partner and trial lawyer
with the large and distinguished Boston law firm of Foley, Hoag
& Eliot LLP. For the last decade, his practice has focused
on environmental litigation.
Nearly all the plaintiffs still reside in east Woburn. Now that
the contaminated wells (C&
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