Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Buffalo Creek Disaster by Gerald Stern

The money can help us live an easier life, free from some of our problems, but it can never put our minds completely at ease, because nothing but death can stop our minds from going back to that morning.

The Buffalo Creek Disaster is about a flood that killed hundreds of people and wiped out several towns in West Virginia in the early 70s and the lawsuit that followed. The flood was basically caused by a coal company's dangerous and reckless construction of a dam that broke and rushed down on a bunch of unsuspecting people.

Written by the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, the book mainly goes through the approach to litigation and settlement blow by blow. I could see how it wouldn't be quite as interesting for a non law student, but Stern does a good job of explaining everything in lay man's terms. What's really interesting about this book is how different it is from A Civil Action. In that one, the battle is waged with money and delay and procedure. In this one, the merits of the case rule. Of course, Stern might have just left some of the nastiness out in favor of brevity, but I think another big difference is the judge; in A Civil Action the judge was blatantly hostile to the plaintiffs, while in The Buffalo Creek Disaster he was much more impartial.

Overall it was a pretty decent book.

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