Agent Orange On Trial / Edition 1

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Agent Orange on Trial is a riveting legal drama with all the suspense of a courtroom thriller. One of the Vietnam War's farthest reaching legacies was the Agent Orange case. In this unprecedented personal injury class action, veterans charge that a valuable herbicide, indiscriminately sprayed on the luxuriant Vietnam jungle a generation ago, has now caused cancers, birth defects, and other devastating health problems. Peter Schuck brilliantly recounts the gigantic confrontation between two million ex-soldiers, the chemical industry, and the federal government. From the first stirrings of the lawyers in 1978 to the court plan in 1985 for distributing a record $200 million settlement, the case, which is now on appeal, has extended the frontiers of our legal system in all directions.

In a book that is as much about innovative ways to look at the law as it is about the social problems arising from modern science, Schuck restages a sprawling, complex drama. The players include dedicated but quarrelsome veterans, a crusading litigator, class action organizers, flamboyant trial lawyers, astute court negotiators, and two federal judges with strikingly different judicial styles. High idealism, self-promotion, Byzantine legal strategies, and judicial creativity combine in a fascinating portrait of a human struggle for justice through law.

The Agent Orange case is the most perplexing and revealing example until now of a new legal genre: the mass toxic tort. Such cases, because of their scale, cost, geographical and temporal dispersion, and causal uncertainty, present extraordinarily difficult challenges to our legal system. They demand new approaches to procedure, evidence, and the definition of substantive legal rights and obligations, as well as new roles for judges, juries, and regulatory agencies. Schuck argues that our legal system must be redesigned if it is to deal effectively with the increasing number of chemical disasters such as the Bhopal accident, ionizing radiation, asbestos, DES, and seepage of toxic wastes. He imaginatively reveals the clash between our desire for simple justice and the technical demands of a complex legal system.

This is a book for all Americans interested in their environment, their legal system, their history, and their future.

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Editorial Reviews

USA Today
A blow-by-blow account of the ferocious six year legal battle...In vivid, behind-the-scenes anecdotes, Schuck portrays the primary actors--judges, lawyers, clerks, and individual veterans--in a Dickensian drama of personality clashes, misguided idealism, power struggles, greed, immeasurable suffering and bitter disillusionment.
Los Angeles Times
An engrossing tale of naive, angry veterans, their crusading, often self-serving lawyers, well-heeled chemical companies, and both ineffective and brilliant judges...Schuck relates this complex drama with colorful, novelistic detail, while always keeping present the essential purpose of his book, which is a critical analysis of the evolution of tort personal injury law in times of mass toxic disasters asbestos, Bhopal, etc., as well as Agent Orange and the growing use of class-action lawsuits to deal with them.
USA Today
A blow-by-blow account of the ferocious six year legal battle...In vivid, behind-the-scenes anecdotes, Schuck portrays the primary actors--judges, lawyers, clerks, and individual veterans--in a Dickensian drama of personality clashes, misguided idealism, power struggles, greed, immeasurable suffering and bitter disillusionment.
Policy and Law Journal of Health Politics
Extraordinary...In addition to providing a clear, easily grasped, but sophisticated summary of the evolution of tort law, [Schuck] shows how the Agent Orange case was a great morality play, a cathartic drama about the Vietnam War and about America's dismal treatment of the soldiers who fought it...These pages offer the finest in investigative journalism and are destined to join the ranks of classics in legal literature...It is a first rate introduction to the world of tort law, a tour de force of legal narrative, and a deeply thoughtful consideration of policy reform.
Library Journal
Agent Orange, a defoliant contaminated by the highly toxic dioxin, has stirred public interest on many levels. Schuck (Yale Law School) brilliantly tells the story of the class action suit brought by thousands of Vietnam veterans against the chemical companies that manufactured the herbicide. He probes deeply into the strategies of plaintiffs' lawyers, the novel defenses invoked, and the sitting judge's role. He not only tells of the legal questions involved and the practical ways they were addressed, but describes the bickering between the veterans' lawyers and the jockeying for preeminence in a case that potentially was worth billions. For general readers as well as scholars, this is a fascinating trip through the complexities of the law and the all-too-human response by all concerned. Daniel LaRossa, Connetquot P.L., Bohemia, N.Y.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674010260
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 1/31/2006
  • Edition description: Enlarged Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 380
  • Sales rank: 1,317,824
  • Product dimensions: 0.78 (w) x 6.14 (h) x 9.21 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter H. Schuck is Simeon E. Baldwin Professor of Law, Yale University.
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Table of Contents

1. A New Kind of Case

2. The Chemical and the Courts

3. The Agent Orange War

4. Judge Pratt Rules

5. Discovery Begins

6. Three-Cornered Struggle

7. Enter Judge Weinstein

8. Fashioning a Settlement

9. A Question of Fairness

10. Compensations

11. The Final Act

12. Versions of Legal Reality

13. Alternatives




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