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Lecture 19

01:790:340 Lecture Notes - Lecture 19: Beatrice Foods, Cancer Cluster

Political Science
Course Code
Jefferson Decker

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Introducing Woburn
I. Quick Overview of Civil Procedure (from Thursday’s outline)
II. Introducing A Civil Action
A. Book is a work of non-fiction—these are all real people.
B. Don’t need to remember every detail, but do try to remember the details that are particularly
telling to you.
C. Storytelling and perspective.
D. Journalism as a method for discovering truth.
E. Civil trials as a method for discovering truth.
F. Social science as a method for discovering truth.
III. Overview of the Case
G. What is the injury-harm alleged in Anderson et al. v. W.R. Grace et al.?
1. Kids contracted leukemia. Bunch of them die. Sue number of companies that
have industrial plants near homes
2. Suing because they think the water had been poisoned by these companies after
the wells were opened.
H. Woburn, Mass.: a middle-class to lower-middle-class suburb of Boston.
I. Originally a center of the New England tanning industry; later, a mix of residential
neighborhoods and industrial parks.
J. Plaintiffs were eight families from the same neighborhood in Woburn.
K. All drank, bathed, or cooked with tap water from two local city wells—both of which
were closed after numerous complaints about chemical odors and tastes.
L. Major defendants: W.R. Grace and Company (a chemical and materials company) and
Beatrice Foods (owner of the Riley Tannery), both located near the wells.
M. Example of a so-called “toxic tort” lawsuit. Trying to use civil litigation to hold
polluters liable for the damage they caused.
IV. Key Issues for the Case (“Internal” Questions)
A. Were W.R. Grace and Beatrice responsible for polluting the groundwater?
1. Were these the only firms to pollute the ground for water?
2. If it wasn't them, there is no way to hold these two firms liable
B. If so, did that pollution cause the deaths of these children?
1. Were the actions of the firms caused the deaths of these children?
C. What is involved in proving this claim?
D. Identifying a “cancer cluster.”
1. cluster of ppl with a certain kind of condition/cancer that is above the national
average for cancer in a particular area; something that is not up to chance.
Identifying a cancer cluster is complicated bc ppl hear a bunch of cases and think
that it is a cluster for ex 8/36000 ppl with cancer out of all Wubon area.Texas
Sharpshutter-just bc pings on a map happen randomly, doesn't mean it's evenly
distributed throughout an area. bc of this ppl can be easily fooled to think that it is a
cluster. Study done by Harvard Study, by ppl from wuborn with help from
professor, to determine that Wuborn is a cluster. Study rejected at peer review bc
the volunteers were from wuborn-they had an interest in the case. Making it not
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