A tenacious lawyer takes on a case involving a major company responsible for causing several people to be diagnosed with leukemia due to the town's water supply being contaminated, at the risk of bankrupting his firm and career.

Director:

Steven Zaillian

Writers:

Jonathan Harr (book), Steven Zaillian (screenplay)
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 5 wins & 8 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
John Travolta ... Jan Schlichtmann
Robert Duvall ... Jerome Facher
Tony Shalhoub ... Kevin Conway
William H. Macy ... James Gordon
Zeljko Ivanek ... Bill Crowley
Bruce Norris Bruce Norris ... William Cheeseman
John Lithgow ... Judge Walter J. Skinner
Kathleen Quinlan ... Anne Anderson
Peter Jacobson ... Neil Jacobs
Mary Mara ... Kathy Boyer
James Gandolfini ... Al Love
Stephen Fry ... Pinder
Dan Hedaya ... John Riley
David Thornton ... Richard Aufiero
Sydney Pollack ... Al Eustis
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Storyline

Jan Schlichtmann, a tenacious lawyer, is addressed by a group of families. When investigating the seemingly non-profiting case, he finds it to be a major environmental issue that has a lot of impact potential. A leather production company could be responsible for several deadly cases of leukemia, but also is the main employer for the area. Schlichtmann and his three colleagues set out to have the company forced to decontaminate the affected areas, and of course to sue for a major sum of compensation. But the lawyers of the leather company's mother company are not easy to get to, and soon Schlichtmann and his friends find themselves in a battle of mere survival. Written by Julian Reischl <julianreischl@mac.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Justice has its price.

Genres:

Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for some strong language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The book (upon which the movie is based) is actually required reading for many first year law students in the United States. Hence, the movie, or portions thereof, is also shown for visual effects. See more »

Goofs

Even though Gordon would have needed Jan's signature and consent in order to mortgage his house, it's possible all the partners signed over all their properties and other assets when they started their firm. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Jan Schlichtmann: [narrating] It's like this. A dead plaintiff is rarely worth as much as a living, severely-maimed plaintiff. However, if it's a long slow agonizing death, as opposed to a quick drowning or car wreck, the value can rise considerably. A dead adult in his 20s is generally worth less than one who is middle aged. A dead woman less than a dead man. A single adult less than one who's married. Black less than white. Poor less than rich. The perfect victim is a white male professional, 40 ...
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Crazy Credits

The producers wish to thank the people of Boston, Waltham, Northbridge, Charlestown, Dedham, Brimfield and Palmer, MA. See more »

Connections

References Quick Draw McGraw (1959) See more »

Soundtracks

Theme
from A Summer Place (1959)
Music by Max Steiner
Performed by Percy Faith and His Orchestra (uncredited)
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User Reviews

Skillful rendition of the book on film.
31 January 1999 | by toenailsSee all my reviews

How to interpret viewer comments on this film:

"Slow-moving" = ...no car chases.

"poor acting" = ...no karate chops

"too long" = ...longer than a music video

"dull" = ...See "Slow-moving"

"A Civil Action" was a fine book, and the film does it justice. No, it's not perfect, but it is emotionally moving, and faithful to the non-fiction account of the case.

Some of the heart-rending short scenes featuring parents of the child-victims (the father at the deposition; the parents trying to revive the dying child in the car) were absolute masterpieces. There should be special Academy Awards available for brief scenes of this kind that are too "small" for Best Supporting Actor awards, but are, in themselves, worthy of acclaim.


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

8 January 1999 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A Civil Action See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$75,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$70,079, 27 December 1998

Gross USA:

$56,709,981

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$56,709,981
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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