Anderson v. Cryovac, Inc.

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Anderson v. Cryovac, Inc.
Seal of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.svg
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[edit]

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 28, 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[edit]

  • A Civil Action: A Documentary Companion, By Lewis A Grossman, Robert G Vaughn (West 2008) (ISBN 9781599415581)
  • 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)


  1. ^ Drogin, Bob (23 September 1986). "Settlement Ends Pollution Trial : W. R. Grace Will Pay $8 Million to Families". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2015-01-16. 
  2. ^ "W.R. Grace is charged with lying about waste". The New York Times. 29 January 1987. Retrieved 2015-01-16. 

External links[edit]