Anderson v. Cryovac, Inc.

Anderson v. Cryovac, Inc.
Court United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
Full case name Anne Anderson, et al. v. Cryovac, Inc.
Argued September 3 1986
Decided November 5 1986
Citation(s) Anderson v. Cryovac, Inc., 805 F.2d 1 (1st Cir. 1986).

Anderson v. Cryovac was a federal lawsuit concerning toxic contamination of groundwater in Woburn, Massachusetts.

The case

Residents of Woburn, Massachusetts sued Beatrice Foods, the operator of a tannery, and Cryovac, a subsidiary of W. R. Grace and Company, and UniFirst, a laundry service, for causing a cancer cluster and other negative effects on health by contaminating groundwater, primarily with trichloroethylene and perchloroethylene. After a trial which included contentious disputes over "splitting" the trial into separate liability and damages phases, W.R. Grace was found liable, and Beatrice was found not liable. The judge, Walter Jay Skinner, however, granted a motion for a mistrial, which was appealed, along with the not liable verdict, by the Woburn residents. The Court of Appeal ordered a new trial. The district court then found that a discovery error made by Beatrice impaired the plaintiffs preparation and recommended that its earlier denial of motion for relief from judgment be sustained. On appeal the Circuit Judge held that: (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion by determining that the operator's failure to disclose a report during pretrial discovery did not warrant relief from judgment; (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining that operator's nondisclosure of a report was roughly equivalent to residents' improper continuation of prosecution of their claim, and thus that monetary sanctions should not be imposed upon either party; and (3) operator's nondisclosure of report did not constitute “fraud on the court” which would trigger entry of default.

On 22 September 1986, W.R. Grace settled with the plaintiffs for an undisclosed amount of money, however many sources report that it was around $8 million.[1]


On January 28th, 1987, W.R. Grace was indicted by a grand jury of lying to the EPA about its usage and disposal of toxic waste.[2] Anderson Regional Transportation Center was later built on the site and named in memory of James R. "Jimmy" Anderson (1968–1981), whose mother Anne was the main plaintiff.


The book A Civil Action, published in 1996, documents the case and related events. The 1998 film of the same name, starring John Travolta as Jan Schlichtmann, was drawn from the book and loosely based on the case and related events.


See also

External links

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