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Mariline M. Lee LSOCRES Atty.

Pe Benito

Chapter 5 - Orphans and Dogs

The Woburn case languished in the files as Schlichtmann was so engrossed with
other cases that made his career on the rise. After successfully negotiating a large
settlement in a big hotel fire case, and seeing the credits and most of the proceeds
went to his senior partner Reed, who had little to do with the case, Schlichtmann
decided to leave Reed & Mulligan and started his own firm. Kevin Conway and Bill
Crowley went with him.

In the new firm, Conway served as the firms gatekeeper as he decided what cases
were worth investing. He quickly rejected cases that were patently frivolous and he
called such cases dogs. There were also cases which he considered orphans and
these were cases that looked as if they might have some merit but that for one reason
or another had circulated among several law firms, rejected by one and passed on to
another. As the Woburn case was ignored by Conway and forgotten by Schlichtmann,
it became an orphan in its own right. A classic orphan case crossed Conways desk
and arrested his attention. It was about a young man, named Carney who suffered
whiplash through a motor accident but went home completely crippled because of a
massive infection. Conway was amazed how a minor automobile accident could have
resulted in such a medical nightmare. Hence, he adopted this orphan. Carney was the
new firms first major case, and Schlichtmann spent more than two hundred thousand
dollars and six months preparation for it Schlichtmann, rejected a one million dollar
settlement but won the case with $4.7 million verdict. The Carney case had not only
given Schlichtmann plenty of money but also a new measure of confidence, which
made him feel ready for the Woburn case.

Though the Woburn case had lain dormant for over a year, a Harvard study had been
conducted since the spring of 1981 and came up with a result showing that people
exposed to wells G and H had suffered a number of adverse health effects, and the
study concluded that there was a strong possibility the contamination was linked to the
leukemia cases. However, other doctors had an opinion that the Harvard study was
seriously flawed.

William Cheeseman, through the aid of two doctors who signed lengthy affidavits
stating that there existed no medically accepted evidence to support the opinion of the
Harvard study, filed a motion for summary judgment, alleging that the plaintiffs could
not prove their allegations scientifically, and therefore the case could not go to a jury.
However, Judge Skinner found summary judgment was clearly inappropriate since the
factual issue of causation is the subject of the heated dispute of the case. Cheeseman
later impleaded another defendant, Unifirst, which also had a manufacturing plant
near the wells. Unifirst quickly settled with Schlichtmann for just over a million dollars,
and the Woburn families agreed to use a large portion of that settlement to finance the
rest of the case against W.R. Grace and Beatrice Foods.