A Civil Action: More Truthful Than Erin Brockovich

This is probably one of the best law films ever made. Travolta does a stunning job in his performance and the plot is spectacular.

However, I think many of the arguments made in the beginning by the character come from fallacies and terrible value judgments. For example, the idea that you can’t feel bad for your client is sometimes impossible and seems to be sparked from the Appeal to Emotion fallacy. Appealing to peoples emotions – in any non-lawful context – is fine; it’s only a fallacy when it has nothing to do with the argument. In this case, it was about the dead children. Being angry about the dead children is perfectly rational and emotionally healthy. Why wouldn’t you be? The film made me cogitate on how too often people misunderstand rationality to mean cold and calculated ruthlessness. That is wrong; emotions are perfectly rational and healthy. Laws simply exist to decide what is correct and incorrect behavior. In the instance of them losing and then having to later go to the EPA after their case dissolved; it shouldn’t be considered irrational behavior to have cared about their clients.

And, unfortunately, stories like this are far less likely because small town communities usually side with the corporations because of job opportunities:


There was another film, Erin Brockovich, featuring Sandra Bullock, about an attorney’s assistant who worked hard to fight the poisonous water that caused cancer among many people in a small town. Well, sad truth of that story, is that the cancer survivors agreed to use a private company to distribute the settlement amount under the direction of their defense attorney (including the woman that Bullock played in the film) and they gave far less than the actual amount that was due and kept the majority of the money for themselves.

It is best to be rational and truthful. Most Hollywood films just give us a distorted misrepresentation. I’m glad this film isn’t one of those.

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