Wednesday, June 30, 2010

'Civil Action' Lawyer Slammed With Libel Verdict

A Civil Action (film)Image via Wikipedia
The Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly newspaper reports that Beverly, Mass.-based attorney Jan Schlichtmann has been socked with a $149,000 judgment after being found liable for defamation by an Essex County Superior Court jury sitting in Lawrence.

Schlichtmann, whose battle against two companies that allegedly contaminated the Woburn town water supply with toxic chemicals was dramatized in  the 1998 film, A Civil Action,  in which he was portrayed by John Travolta, finds himself on the wrong end of the verdict in a case brought by The Cadle Co., a debt collection firm located in Ohio. Schlichtmann, who represented himself in the case, has been embroiled in litigation with the plaintiff since 1995, when Cadle sued him to enforce a security interest it claimed that it had on attorneys fees earned by Schlichtmann in a former case.

Schlichtmann set up a website,, to alert visitors about what he perceived to be unlawful conduct by the plaintiff in Massachusetts.  Cadle sued for defamation, and a jury found that the plaintiff proved the defendant made defamatory statements about Cadle with actual malice  on the website.

Judge Kathe M. Tuttman presided over the month-long trial. The case is The Cadle Co. v. Jan R. Schlichtmann et al (Case No. 05-00603-D).

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  1. Odd for a lawyer to cross the libel line since one expects he'd know the boundaries.

  2. He's his own worst enemy. He & Cadle Co. have been at war for more than a decade. He's a zealot who I first encountered in the '70s as a reporter when he was representing Clamshell Alliance members arrested at a Seabrook, N.H. nuclear power plan protest.

  3. It's not Jan's fault. I heard his lawyer was the real problem.