Lesson 1: (one period)
Begin by asking for three students to volunteer to come
to the front of the room. Cut the following excerpts
from the article, “The Pain of Maryvale” into
three slips of paper and give one excerpt to each student.
Ask each volunteer to read their excerpt to the class.
years ago, Patricia and Roy Johnson paid $12,600
for a concrete-block home in the west Phoenix
region generally known as Maryvale. Like hundreds
of other young married couples, the Johnsons chose
live in Maryvale because it provided affordable housing,
like a safe place to raise children and was close
to Roy's place of employment.”
1973, the Johnson’s youngest child
and only daughter, 7-year-old Karen, fell ill
with leukemia, an often fatal malignancy of the organs
blood. She died when she was 13 years old.”
1993, the now-elderly couple joined 45 other
west-side residents in a lawsuit against the
city of Phoenix….”
students to “think,
pair, and share”;
Think: why do you think the Johnsons joined
a class action lawsuit? Why are they suing the city?
Pair: discuss their
guess with a neighbor. Share: share their answers
with the class.
The teacher should record the students’ responses
as they share them with the class.
Hand out article, “The Pain of
and ask the students to read rest of the
story beginning on page 1 to the top of
page 5 (tell
them to stop reading when they get to “Cathy’s
After reading the article students will discuss the
a) Describe the complaint that would
be filed in the lawsuit.
b) List all of the responsible parties
that would be the defendants in the suit.
c) Describe the evidence that proves
d) The Johnsons commented that money
the main objective for joining in the lawsuit,
therefore what was their main reason?
e) What would you do if you were in this
situation? Is there anything that you
would do differently?
After students have spent 15 minutes discussing the
questions with their
have them share
their comments with the class. Close
by telling the class that they will
at an actual
class action suit dealing with similar
2: Introduce “A Civil Action” (one period)
Hand out the article on Superfund: http://www.enviroliteracy.org/article.php/329.html
and pages 2-3 from “Death and Justice” (introduction
through “illness and death”) http://home.earthlink.net/~dkennedy56/woburn_trial.html#AA
Ask students to read the articles and answer the questions
What was the background for the Superfund legislation?
Should Congress pass legislation to re-authorize
the Super Fund tax? Who pays for the clean up of toxic
waste now that
the Superfund tax has expired?
How does the Superfund legislation apply to the Woburn
Who filed the lawsuit? Against whom?
What is the nature of the evidence for an increase
in cancer rates
Based on the evidence provided, whom do you think should
be held responsible for the toxic
Have a class discussion on the following:
question #2: Should Congress
pass legislation to re-authorize the Super Fund tax?
Discuss question #6: Whom do you think should be held
for the toxic contamination present
the discussion by telling the students they are going
to watch a video about the civil action lawsuit concerning
the community of Woburn, Massachusetts in order to gain
a better understanding of the civil procedures involving
3: “Video: A Civil Action” (2 periods)
Have students prepare a video log: Divide a sheet of
paper into two columns; label column 1- facts and observations
and label column 2- comments and reactions.
a) Students should list the facts related to the case
and the civil process in column 1 as described by
Jan Schlichtmann, as they watch the movie. At the
end of each video segment, students should record their
and questions that they have in column 2.
Start the movie where the lawyer, Jan Schlichtmann
by John Travolta), is on the air at a radio station,
phone calls from the public. Show the movie through
meeting with the families involved in the case and
his walk through the contaminated site along the river.
the segment where he sees the Beatrice truck in the
a) After stopping segment one, allow students a few
minutes to record their reactions and then discuss:
b) What would you do if you were Jan; would you
take the case? Why or why not? What would you need
making the decision?
Start the movie where Jan is taking depositions of
the movie after the meeting with the defense attorneys
regarding an out of court settlement.
a) Allow students a few minutes to record their
reactions. Discuss any questions they have about
the legal process.
b) Discuss: What must Jan Schlichtmann prove?
Do you feel he has enough evidence to prove his
you think that he should agree to a settlement
with the attorneys for the defendants?
If time allows you may want to show the rest of the
that students can learn the outcome
of the trial.
Otherwise show the remaining ten minutes of
the movie where Jan is compiling further evidence
on the case for
appeal; start where he is in a coffee shop
when a glass of water is dropped, spilling water onto
a) Have students record their final reactions
in their video logs.
b) Discuss: Was justice served in this case?
Why or why not?
What would you have done differently if you
had been a lawyer for the plaintiffs?
Tell students that they are going to have an opportunity to participate in a
civil trial as either a lawyer for a plaintiff or defendant. Their final
project for the unit will involve researching the background of an actual
case and preparing written briefs and oral arguments for an appeals court.