Jan Schlichtmann is one of America’s foremost environmental lawyers, specializing in toxic torts and consumer protection. He graduated from University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1973 before attaining his JD at Cornell University in 1977.
After working as special counsel on the U.S. House Special Select Committee on Assassinations, Mr. Schlichtmann launched his private practice in his home state of Massachusetts in 1978. He quickly built a reputation as a dogged defender of consumer rights, winning a streak of verdicts and settlements on behalf of people harmed by large corporations.
In the 1980s, those wins landed Mr. Schlichtmann the case of a lifetime, in which he represented eight families from Woburn, Massachusetts who claimed they were injured by water tainted by W.R. Grace and Beatrice Foods (the defendants). The case, often referred to as “Woburn,” received a flood of coverage from major publications as well as television shows like “60 Minutes” and “Nova.”
After Woburn, Mr. Schlichtmann served on a special legislative committee to revise the Massachusetts Hazardous Waste Cleanup Statute, which went into effect in 1992.
In 1995, author Jonathan Harr wrote a bestselling nonfiction book about Woburn called A Civil Action, which won the National Book Critics’ Circle Award. In 1998, in a film adaptation of the same name—starring John Travolta (as Mr. Schlichtmann) and Robert Duvall—further elevated Mr. Schlichtmann’s status.
In the late 1990s, Mr. Schlichtmann successfully represented 69 families in Toms River, New Jersey whose children contracted cancer allegedly due to pollution caused by three companies—Ciba Specialty Chemicals, Union Carbide, and United Water Resources. In 2001, these companies reached an undisclosed, first-of-its-kind settlement with the families.
In 2004, Mr. Schlichtmann co-founded the Legal Broadcast Network to help bring public attention to important issues of law, justice, and the environment. In 2013, his standard-setting work in Toms River was the subject of Dan Fagin’s Pulitzer Prize winner Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation (Bantam Books).
Over the past 20 years, Mr. Schlichtmann has delivered lectures at campuses and conferences across America, delivering insights on Woburn, Toms River, and myriad other legal experiences. He has also served on the faculty of the New England School of Law, Suffolk Law School, and the National Judicial College in Reno, Nevada.
- Massachusetts Bar
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