Trial on W. R. Grace and Beatrice Foods liability for the death of several children due to Leukemia, are the defendants guilty or innocent?
If I were a juror, I shall resolve the case in favor of the residents of Woburn and against W.R. Grace and Beatrice Foods. The testimony of the witnesses and the pieces of evidence are sufficient to prove the liability due to neglect or imprudence of the defendants.
When Drobinski took the witness stand, he testified on the status of the soil, having been contaminated with the so-called TCE or trichloroethylene. His empirical evidence was based on the 55 gallons of drums of contaminated of rust from the water obtained within the vicinity of Wells G and H, aerial photographs, a cross-section of a tree then proved to be existing in the 1960s when the issue of leukemia broke out. Evidence purely empirical is convincing in itself to prove that there is really basis to establish the liability of defendants and entitling the plaintiffs to whatever relief they prayed for before the court, and those which are proper as the case may be.
Moreover, his credibility has been tested and he is proved to be a qualified expert witness under Rule 702 of the Rules of Evidence. The cross-examination of Mr. Facher trying to destroy this credibility is proved futile by the counter evidence of Drobinski who presented a Certification under oath that he is a geologist.
The first witness for W.R. Grace admitted that some employees dumped waste onto the ground with an emphasis that this was done for a ‘few times’ only. This admission against the interest of W.R. Grace is supportive of its liability.
When another witness, Barbas, was called to testify for W.R. Grace and Beatrice, he identified himself as a maintenance man. During the direct examination and on the basis of his deposition, he acknowledged that he had information on the dumping of some elements into the ground and that he also testified that he had observed that this practice was done by W.R. Grace. This testimony obviously works prejudicial to W.R. Grace. It is by its nature, an admission against the interest of W.R. Grace, bolstered by the fact that Barbas himself is an employee of the same.
Another witness for Woburn residents is a resident therein. He testified that during his childhood years, he used to see people dumping debris or barrel of strewn across the Beatrice land and estimated that the same happened during the 1950s to 1970s. This was not refuted by the party of Beatrice.
Moreover, several witnesses who are residents of Woburn shared with the same testimony. This W.R. Grace or Beatrice failed to counteract. Their testimonies strengthen the previous testimony because common experience would tell us that the more people who could attest to the happening of an event, the more credible and believable the witness is, even if sometimes he is just telling lies. We are not talking of lies however in this case. I have simply laid down the ground rules to establish the proposition that the more testimonies there are tending to prove a certain fact, the more likely the fact is believable. This is what the case is all about.
Pinder testified in favor of the plaintiff. His work is related with hydrogeology and he is treated as an expert witness. He explained to the court the period within which water or any element of the same kind would be transported from one place to another. He posited the possibility that indeed the wastes dumped into the acres of Beatrice and Grace property seeped into Wells G and H causing contamination of the water, thus leading to the conclusion supporting the proposition that it has caused the death of the children.
During the course of the trial, Pinder and Schichtman both realized the error in the computation of the period, but Pinder was able to prove that despite such error, the wastes contaminated the water just the same before the epidemic broke out and had caused such a disaster to the residents.
Riley, a hostile witness and testifying for the defendants, work favorably to the defendants during the early stage of the trial. He however destroyed his credibility towards the end of his testimony. Schichtman, wishing to have a good end of his cross-examination on Riley, asked the latter whether he had seen anybody throwing sludge unto the premises of Grace. For several times, Riley vehemently denied any knowledge or information on the same.
Schichtman wanted to obtain from him any information on the documents purporting to be the records of the elements used by W.R. Grace with the participation of Riley himself. Instead of denying any knowledge or information on the matter, Riley vehemently denied any knowledge on the sludge dumped into the ground. This is a deviation from the question asked and may have the implication that the witness wanted to evade the question. This is treated as against the witness.
The scientific evidence of Schichtman proving the elements of TCE is also worthy of attention. TCE was found to have salmonella, and salmonella is found to have caused leukemia. This evidence links the simple idea that the contaminated water has caused a deadly and disastrous disease in Woburn. Worthy of mention also is that the witness is a qualified witness himself, thus, his credibility is not questionable. His evidence in general is admissible.
Worthy of attention also is the number of evidence presented by the plaintiffs. The party of Schlichtman is able to produce 12,000 pages of scientific and medical data on the status and condition of the water in Woburn, which all support the proposition that the contaminated water became the reason for the outbreak of leukemia and has thus caused the death of 7 children within almost nearly the same area, not to mention those children who are also afflicted with the same disease. In addition, 157 wells in Woburn were subjected to scientific tests for comparison purposes. This is a large number and thus strengthens the theory of the plaintiffs.
More importantly, as Schlichtman had thought of before the commencement of the trial, plaintiff is able to establish that the existence of salmonella in the contaminated water linked to the business of both W.R. Grace and Beatrice was proved to have been in Woburn during the 1960s and 1970s, during which the outbreak of leukemia was at its height. This fully strengthens the claim of the plaintiff.
All summed up, the testimonies of the plaintiff, particularly Drobinski who is a geologist, Pinder who is an expert in hydrogeology and the medical doctor who testified the harmful effects of the contaminated water, being an expert in himself are sufficient evidence to establish the liability of W.R. Grace and Beatrice.
The strategy of the counsels for W.R. Grace and Beatrice of always trying to object on the pieces of evidence presented seems to be that they are attempting to suppress some information which might influence the jurors in resolving the issue of the case. This has the effect of thwarting the evidence so as to deviate it from its real nature or to detract the attention of the jurors to a different understanding.
The strategy of W.R. Grace and Beatrice is not convincing for me.
All these taken together, guilt of W. R. Grace and Beatrice has been duly proved. Hence, liability should thereafter be determined in accordance with what plaintiff prayed for and those which circumstances may warrant.