Environmental toxins in the town of Woburn, Massachusetts contaminate the area's water supply, and become linked to a number of deaths of neighboring children. Jan Schlichtmann, a cocky and successful attorney who zips around town in his Porsche, and his small firm of personal injury lawyers are called upon to take legal action against those responsible.
After originally rejecting a seemingly unprofitable case, Jan finds a major environmental issue that has a lot of impact potential and a couple of defendants with deep pockets. A tannery production company could be responsible for several deadly cases of leukemia, but also is the main employer for the area. Jan decides to go forward against two giant corporations with links to the tannery, thinking it's another case that could possibly earn him millions, as well as a name for him and his firm.
With a class action lawsuit to file, Jan represents families who demand a clean-up of the contaminated area and an apology. However, it develops into a case that could ruin Jan and his firm. The lawyers of the leather company's parent corporation are not easy to intimidate, a judge rules against him, and soon Jan and his partners find themselves in a battle for mere survival.
Jan stubbornly declines settlement offers, gradually coming to believe that the case is about more than just the money. He allows his pride to take over, making outrageous demands and deciding that he must win at all cost. Pressures take their toll, Jan and associates going deeply into debt. The case is dismissed in favor of the one of the two defendants. Jan is forced to accept a settlement with the other that barely accounts for his expenses.
His own colleagues no longer wish to work with him and break up the firm. Later, on his own, Jan comes up with an idea that is able to win a settlement for the families, but his life remains in shambles. He ends up alone, filing for bankruptcy. However, the Environmental Protection Agency later bring