Anderson v. Cryovac

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Anderson v. Cryovac, Inc.
Court United States Court of Appeals, 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[edit]

Residents of Woburn, Massachusetts sued Beatrice Foods, the operator of a tannery, and Cryovac, a subsidiary of W.R. Grace 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.


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[edit]


  • Anderson v. Cryovac, C.A. No. 82-1672-S (D. Mass); (Anne Anderson et al. v. Cryovac Inc. W.R. Grace Inc., John J. Riley Company Inc., Beatrice Inc. et al. Superior Court Civil Action #82-2444, Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Filed May 14, 1982.)
  • Anderson v. Cryovac, Inc., 96 F.R.D. 431 (D. Mass. 1983)
  • Anderson v. W.R. Grace & Co., 628 F. Supp. 1219 (D. Mass. 1986)
  • Anderson v. Cryovac, Inc., 805 F.2d 1 (1st Cir. Mass. 1986)
  • Anderson v. Cryovac, Inc., 862 F.2d 910 (1st Cir. Mass. 1988), on remand, Anderson v. Beatrice Foods Co., 127 F.R.D. 1 (D. Mass. 1989)
  • Anderson v. Beatrice Foods Co., 129 F.R.D. 394 (D. Mass. 1989), aff'd, 900 F.2d 388 (1st Cir.), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 891 (1990)

External links[edit]

  • Some of the trial documents in Anderson v. Cryovac landmark case (Carleton College)
  • [ Anderson v. Beatrice Foods: Index of Pleadings] (Florida State University)
  • [ Toxic Legacy] (Dan Kennedy)
  • [ A Civil Action: Sources] M.G. Gallagher Law Library, University of Washington
  • [ Riley v. Harr] 1st Circuit - U. S. Court of Appeals
  • [ Anderson v. Cryovac featured at Washington College of Law @ American University, DIGITAL COMMONS]
  • [ Anderson v. Cryovac being studied in 1L Civil Procedure classes]
  • [ Timeline of trial]