Civil litigation (film)

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German title Civil litigation
Original title A Civil Action
Country of production United States
original language English
Publishing year 1998
length 110 minutes
Age rating FSK 12
Director Steven Zaillian
script Steven Zaillian
production Rachel Pepper ,
Robert Redford ,
Scott Rudin
music Danny Elfman
camera Conrad L. Hall
cut Wayne Wahrman

Civil Trial (Original Title: A Civil Action ) is an American drama from 1998. The director was Steven Zaillian , who also wrote the screenplay based on a book by Jonathan Harr . The main role was played by John Travolta .


Jan Schlichtmann is a lawyer specializing in compensation litigation who runs a law firm consisting of himself, two other lawyers and an accountant. He usually works against a share in the compensation instead of the attorney's fees. When a number of children died of leukemia in the small town of Woburn , Massachusetts , the affected parents turned to Schlichtmann. They accuse a local tannery of polluting the water and causing the disease.

Schlichtmann first doubts whether the case could be profitable enough. Then he takes it over, realizing that there are two large, well-funded companies behind the tannery. These companies hire lawyers Jerome Facher and William Cheeseman for defense. A settlement is offered, with a one-off payment of 25 million US dollars, the defendants' lawyers nod. Schlichtmann makes further demands that add up to over 300 million US dollars. The defendant's lawyers leave the hearing room. The lengthy process causes high costs for his law firm and ultimately drives it to the brink of bankruptcy.

The defendants are now offering $ 8 million in compensation, which Schlichtmann accepts. He wants to go into the calling, but his colleagues and partners do not want to participate. Schlichtmann leaves the office. He writes to an environmental protection agency, which successfully appeals and has the two accused companies closed and USD 60 million in damages and the environmental damage repaired.

Schlichtmann remains impoverished. The end credits of the film show that it will take several years for Schlichtmann, who from now on specializes in environmental law, to recover financially.


Roger Ebert wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times of January 8, 1999 that the film was based on a true case, but deviated in places from the original book. The main characters are shown differentiated.

Carsten Baumgardt criticized the direction and portrayal of John Travolta on . He praised the portrayals of Robert Duvall and John Lithgow.

"The honorable attempt to film an actual case suffers from insufficient psychology and an exaggerated factual loyalty that comes at the expense of dramatic power."


The Academy members nominated actor Robert Duvall and cinematographer Conrad L. Hall for an Oscar in 1999 .

John Travolta and Robert Duvall were nominated for the Blockbuster Entertainment Award in 1999. Robert Duvall won the Florida Film Critics Circle Award and the Screen Actors Guild Award in 1999 , and was nominated for the Golden Globe Award , the Chicago Film Critics Association Award, and the Golden Satellite Award .

William H. Macy won the Boston Society of Film Critics Award in 1998 . The script won the USC Scripter Award in 1999 and was nominated for the Writers Guild of America Award . The film won the Political Film Society Award in 1999 .

The German Film and Media Assessment FBW in Wiesbaden awarded the film the rating "valuable".


The cost of production was approximately $ 75 million.

The novel was based on the scandal surrounding the Beatrice Foods and WR Grace and Company companies and the Woburn residents' lawsuit against the companies.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Review by Roger Ebert
  2. ^ Criticism on
  3. ^ Civil litigation. In: Lexicon of International Films . Film service , accessed July 5, 2017 .Template: LdiF / Maintenance / Access used 
  4. Civil litigation on fbw-filmb
  5. ^ Civil litigation on