Everyone who has been harmed, or frightened, by toxics in their neighborhood wants to sue the bastards. Everyone wants their day in court. But it doesn't usually make sense to bring a lawsuit: the courts, remember, were devised as a means for the powers-that-be to maintain law and order. When you sue, you're operating on your adversary's turf and the deck is heavily stacked against the little guy. Lawsuits eat up money and time and you'll probably end up losing big.
Still, there may be times when a lawsuit makes sense. This booklet, MAKING POLLUTERS PAY: A CITIZENS' GUIDE TO LEGAL ACTION AND ORGANIZING can help you decide whether a lawsuit will help or hurt your cause. It's written in plain English and it contains a lot of useful information even if you decide not to sue.
There's a good chapter on "barriers toxics victims now face," telling you in realistic terms the hurdles you face if you want to sue a polluter who has harmed you. A glossary of medical and legal terms will help you understand the special language that lawyers and judges and doctors use. There is a good chapter on chemical and medical testing and how to select a lab.
The book ends with three chapters for organizing your community (and a bibliography). Even if you enter a lawsuit, you should organize your community --judges are humans and they read the papers like anyone else. Despite claims to the contrary, the courtroom is a political place and it will be influenced by organized citizen action.
MAKING POLLUTERS PAY is $15 from Environmental Action Foundation, 1525 New Hampshire Ave., NW,
Wash., DC 20036; phone (202) 745-4871. Worth the price.
--Peter Montague, Ph.D.
Descriptor terms: lawsuits; pollution; citizen groups;