I have finished the 127th book for the book challenge. It was The Appeal by John Grisham.
In this novel, there is a lawsuit filed by Jeannette Baker against the Krane Chemical Company. Her husband and young son both died of cancer within a year of each other due to the pollution of the water in their small town in Mississippi from Krane’s factory.
Krane has been polluting the water in this small town for years and the town has been after them to clean it up for years. Many people have died and there are many lawsuits against them. Jeannette Baker’s is the first to come to trial. Krane has moved its operations out of the town. Wes and Mary Grace Payton are the lawyers who are prosecuting this lawsuit. They have mortgage their business and everything they own to do this. They are working out of a storefront office and live in a small apartment. They will be broke if they do not win this lawsuit.
After a lengthy trial, the verdict is announced. Krane is guilty. The widow is awarded $2 million for her pain and suffering for her husband and son’s death and Krane is further punish by a multimillion judgment for punitive damages. Krane’s stock drops. Carl Trudeau, the president of Krane, sees his wealth of $2 billion decrease to $1 billion practically overnight.
Trudeau decides to do something about the decision. He decides to by a Mississippi supreme court judge who will hear the appeal. He goes to a man in Florida who has a contact who will groom a Mississippi lawyer to run for supreme court judge who will be friendly to big business. They choose Ronald Fiske, an upstanding young lawyer who has been practicing corporate law, to run for the supreme court against Sheila McCarthy who has been sympathetic to trial lawyers and the plaintiffs in these kinds of cases. After pouring huge sums of money into the state from groups outside the state, Fiske wins a narrow victory over McCarthy and wins a place on the Supreme Court of Mississippi.
Fiske is true to the people who elected him, his handlers. He sides with three other judges to form a majority and strikes down plaintiffs awards time and again. But then something tragic happens. Fiske’s young son is hit by a baseball from an illegal bat in a little league game. He suffers severe brain damage when his injury is not noticed by the emergency room doctors. He spends long days in the hospital and is left permanently injured. His father is advised to sue the bat manufacturer and the ER doctors. This changes how he looks at cases.
But he still has cases to review. The Baker v Krane case comes for his opinion. He has already said he would side with the three judges who would vote to strike down the award. He does so. But on the next case involving a nursing home liability, he sides with the plaintiffs.
The lawyers and the plaintiffs in the Baker case lose everything. They can appeal but know the prospects of the Supreme Court of the United States hearing the case are slim. The other cases will not be heard. There is not enough evidence, according to the supreme court. Carl Trudeau has been buying up Krane stock at a cheap rate and now has made $3 billion. He has bought himself a yacht. Life is good.
This is a depressing novel. You keep hoping that Fiske will do the right thing after his son is injured and vote to uphold the verdict in Baker but he is loyal to what he promised and votes to strike it down. That case is lost. The end of the book with Trudeau holding court on his yacht is disgusting. It is all very depressing that a supreme court seat can be bought like this, but I know it happens. People can be so gullible and bought for a few dollars. So sad.