An Excellent Movie on Toxic Tort


As a continued lead-up to the appearance of our toxic tort page, I thought I’d take today’s blog to write about a very good movie concerning toxic tort, Michael Clayton. George Clooney stars as the title character, who is a fixer in a huge NY law firm. In the movie’s main plot, he is brought in to fix a problem with one of the firm’s elder lawyers, Arthur Edens, played by Tom Wilkinson, who seems to have lost his mind. Instead, it turns out that Arthur, far from being insane, has actually become a kind of Messianic figure (we see him stripping down in a deposition, like John the Baptist, who shed his fine clothes to wear furs in the wilderness), who is announcing the way of righteousness.


Arthur has worked for six long years defending an agricultural products company United Northfield (name recently changed to U-North, along with a snazzy new logo), from a toxic tort case related to a weed killer that was marketed aggressively to colder-climate farms. Apparently, the tasteless, odorless chemical dissolves easily in water, and is at risk for contaminating the well water of small farms and thereby causing cancer and even death, and the company knew it early in the marketing of the herbicide.

The movie’s main plot revolves around whether Michael Clayton will listen to the call of his old friend, who has a history of mental illness, or whether he will stay loyal to his firm, to which he is bound by a complex web of loyalties and obligations. This tension is effectively developed throughout the movie, and remains in the balance up until the movie’s final, gripping frames. The movie is strongly recommended if for no other reason than to watch the outstanding performances of Wilkinson, Clooney, and Tilda Swinton who plays the chief legal counsel for U-North with depth and sensitivity despite the almost completely reprehensible nature of the character.

It is impossible to leave this film without feeling outrage at the machinations of big chemical, and it is good to know that a remedy exists. If you or someone you love lives in a community affected by the noxious refuse of the chemical industry, contact today to get in touch with a toxic tort lawyer who can help you receive redress for your injuries.