A Civil Action - The Woburn Toxic Trial > Key Issues in the Trial > Woburn Trial Cronology

Woburn Toxic Trial Chronology


For most complicated cases, like the Woburn Toxic Trial, it is not uncommon for the trial process to span several years. Although the Woburn trial took place from March through July 1986, the trial process extended from 1979, when families of leukemia victims first began to organize, into 1990, when the last appeals submitted by the plaintiffs' attorneys were denied. Tabulated below is a chronology of entire trial process in the case that eventually became Ann Anderson et al. v. W.R. Grace & Co. et al. Accounts of many of these events can be read in the collection of newspaper articles.

1979

May 22, 1979 City of Woburn closes Wells G and H because of identified contamination.
October 4, 1979 Rev. Bruce Young begins organizing families who have had leukemia diagnosed for one or more family members.

1980

August, 1980First meeting between attorneys and families with members having been diagosed with leukemia.
October, 1980 Families engage an attorney (Mulligan)

1981

May 1981Jan Schlichtmann meets with families on behalf of Mulligan.

1982

May 14, 1982Family's file complaint in Massachusetts Superior Court for Middlesex alleging contamination of Wells G and H by Beatrice (John J. Riley Tannery) and W.R. Grace (Cryovac) causing the unusual occurrence of leukemia in Woburn.
May 19, 1982Summons served on Grace and Beatrice regarding the family's complaint.
June 9, 1982W.R. Grace files answers to the complaint in state court.
October 7, 1982Plaintiffs initiate pretrial discovery presenting interrogatories to W.R. Grace and Beatrice.
November 9, 1982 Rule 11 invoked by W.R. Grace.
December 15, 1982 Rule 11 hearing with Judge Skinner.

1983

January 6, 1983Second hearing on Rule 11 motion.
February 7, 1983W.R. Grace answers to interrogatories (initial response)
December 1983Formation of Schlichtmann, Conway and Crowley.

1984

May 18, 1984W.R. Grace requests summary judgment.
July 25, 1984Judge Skinner denies summary judgment.
September 5, 1984Parties begin scheduling order for depositions.
October 26, 1984Judge Skinner allows impleader of UniFirst.

1985

January 7, 1985Beginning of depositions; Schlichtmann, Conway and Crowley initiate assessment of Riley property.
September 1985WGBH and Chedd-Angier move to intervene to use deposition information make the Woburn story into a documentary.
December 1985CBS, Inc. files a Complaint of Intervenor for case information regarding their development of a '60 Minutes' segment regarding Woburn; first deposition of George Pinder, the plaintiffs hydrogeology expert.

1986

January 1986 Depositions of plaintiff's and defendant's other experts. Depositions finalized on January 22, 1986.
January 29, 1986First day of Pretrial conference, Judge Skinner announces intent to divide the trial into separate phases, the first phase requiring demonstration of the defendants contamination of the Wells.
February 17, 1986First day of Jury Impanelment, jury selection continues through February 25.
March 2, 1986'60 Minutes' airs segment titled "What Killed Jimmy Anderson".
March 10, 1986Trial begins with plaintiffs presenting their case.
June 2, 1986Defendants move for directed verdicts. Defendants experts begin testimony.
June 9, 1986 Judge Skinner's ruling on directed verdicts.
July 1, 1986 The jury visits the Woburn site.
July 14, 1986 Closing arguments.
July 15, 1986Judge Skinner provides jurors a wordy questionnaire regarding the timing of contamination and specific contaminants that affected wells G and H.
July 28, 1986Jurors reach verdict: Beatrice acquitted, Grace found potentially liable for contamination of Wells. Phase 1 of the trial ends. The next phase, demonstrating cause of injury by the defendant (Grace) is scheduled to begin in September.
September 21, 1986Phase 2 of the trial begins.
September 22, 1986Judge Skinner announces grant of new trial for Grace. Plaintiffs and Grace reach a settlement. Skinner dismisses the jury.
October 31, 1986Plaintiffs file an appeal against Beatrice.

1987

1987US Geological Survey releases "Area of Influence and Zone of Contribution to Superfund Site Wells G & H, Woburn Massachusetts.
September 1987Plaintiffs made aware of the 1983 "Yankee" report.
October 26, 1987Hearings on plaintiffs motion for vacation of judgment regarding Beatrice.

1988

January 22, 1988Judge Skinner denies motion for new trial against Beatrice.
January 25, 1988Plaintiffs appeal Judge Skinner's ruling against retrial of Beatrice.
July 27, 1988Oral arguments in the Court of Appeals regarding requests for new trial.
December 22, 1988Judge Skinner issues further orders regarding requests of appeals.

1990

April 30, 1990United States Court of Appeals denies plaintiffs request for a rehearing the case.

1991

July 1991EPA finalized as a $69.5 million settlement with responsible parties for the cleanup of Wells G & H Superfund site. The responsible parties include Beatrice, Grace, UniFirst and Riley.

Visit the newspaper and magazine article collection to read more about these events.