They thought they wouldn’t get caught. Being a vast multinational company had its perks, and nobody dared to mess with them. They did whatever they wanted.
The chemical firm in question did not think that simple farmers would take the time to tackle them with legal disputes. They were so wrong. One farmer was not going to take this disrespect lying down.
A well-known chemical firm illegally dumped their company’s waste on a farmer’s private land. They were not given legal permission to do so.
The dumping was discovered by long-time farmer Erik Wilson, whose family had owned the land for years. He was a simple man who had tended to those farmlands all his life and found the actions of the chemical firm to be outright disrespectful.
Eric Wilson, aged 67, was born and raised in Elberta, Alabama. The farming town is a closely-knitted community where everybody knows everybody.
The City of Alabama is renowned for being an agricultural place. The Farmers grow mainly corn and Soy which is their main source of income. But like any job, farming life isn’t as peaceful as it ought to be, which Mr. Wilson found out the hard way.
A Farmers Life
Running a farm takes a great deal of physical labor. Most farmers and their farm-workers are up at the crack of dawn, feeding the animals and tending to crops.
Although Mr. Wilson was a pensioner, he still took pride in his farm and worked just as hard as his other staff. The farm wasn’t just a job but a part of his family’s history which he wanted to preserve for their future.
Sacrifice For The Farm
Before the Industrial revolution, it was not uncommon that many children never went to school. Instead, they worked at their family business. So too, was the case for young Erik Wilson.
This was the normal way of life. Everybody had a job and a part in the farming system. There was never a shortage of food. The abundance soon shortened as technology advanced.
The Rise Of Industry
Various large industries were built in and around Elberta. The soil was rich and fertile for farming, and every businessman wanted a piece of it. The residents were happy at the opportunity of new jobs, but it only took a few years for that happiness to change to grief.
After some time, farm residents started noticing a change in the air, the sky was cloudy. The rivers were dirty, and the vegetables tasted funny. There was mass pollution.
Keeping An Eye-Out
All the time, Mr. Wilson was watching and waiting to see what they would do next. This was a serious matter, and he wanted to know everything that was going on.
One quiet afternoon while Mr. Wilson was wrapping up his work for the day, he noticed three large chemical trucks drive up to the small stream next to the farm. He watched them from a distance. There were a few men scurrying around the trucks like little ants in white suits. He wondered what they had been doing there for so long.
He waited until they left. He had to go check what they were doing there. He was feeling nauseous as he walked across the field. He didn’t know what to expect.
As he arrived near the truck’s dump site, the most putrid smell filled his nostrils. He choked. He couldn’t believe his eyes, it was even worse than he thought.
Toxic Farm Dump
His nightmare had come true! Thousands of acres of farmland were covered in dangerous toxic waste. The damage to the soil was irreparable.
Mr. Wilson was furious. This was illegal. He wondered where he was going to find a lawyer. How was he going to pay for legal fees? He had to make a plan.
Mr. Wilson bravely approached some of the toughest environmental lawyers in the country. They admired his courage and asked him to gather as much evidence against the chemical firm as possible.
The humble farmer hadn’t a clue about how to start legal proceedings and wondered if he bit off more than he could chew. But he remained courageous and professional and assisted the lawyers with all the information they needed.
Six Years Of Study
For the next six years, Wilson spent all his spare time preparing the lawsuit all by himself. It was a battle he had to fight and win. He just had to do it; for his village, for his neighbors, and for his own dignity.
And even though he couldn’t hire a lawyer and didn’t have more than three years of school education, he found a way to face the firm and make them pay for what they did.
Wandering Around Bookstores
Wilson spent years wandering around every library and bookstore in town and going through every legal volume he could get his hands on.
He couldn’t even afford to buy them. He just brought a notebook and a pen with him and wrote down everything he thought could be useful. This was a difficult task, but something else made it even more complicated.
It Was Hard For Him
Wilson had to carry a dictionary with him and look up the words he read in the legal volumes. He didn’t understand many of them, so he basically had to give himself an education in law!
One can only imagine how titanic of a task it was for this farmer who dropped out of school after just 3 years.
Even though the farmer didn’t have the smarts a lot of people from the city did, he was an incredibly ingenious man with the wisdom that a hard life had taught him.
He knew that this would be a monumental task. But if he wanted to get the reparations he sorely needed, he would have to make sure he knew exactly what he was talking about when he presented his case.
A Difficult Journey
Most people would have given up when they realized how difficult it would be. But there was something that drove him. It was his livelihood, after all.
How could he be expected to live now that his harvest each year would be a fraction of what it used to be? His farm was his life, and that couldn’t be taken away from him.
A Long Road
After researching enough books to fill a room, Eric could tell that he was out of his depth. Law was a complicated thing, and as a mostly uneducated man, he knew it would take a lot more dedication to understand what he was getting into.
But he didn’t give up. He drove to every major library in the city to find the books he wanted. But that’s when he’d be noticed.
Eric stuck out like a sore thumb when he was in the big city. He was used to the rough rural farmlands and never had to dress fancy. He wore tried and true but ragged jeans with a button-up shirt that had seen a lot of hard work.
This meant that one person, in particular, noticed Eric walking around in the law section of the library. He caught their interest in a strange way.
His Usual Routine
Eric had developed a routine by now. He’d go straight to the law section and pick out all of the books that he thought would be relevant before sitting down with them. He’d always make the most of his time with them since he couldn’t take them home.
He’d usually spend hours reading up on everything he could. But today, he’d be interrupted by the least likely person.
A Strange Meeting
The stranger snuck up behind Eric. He was intrigued by him. What could a rural man want with law books? But his watching was now over.
He approached the table Eric was sitting at and sat down. He flashed a smile as Eric had his nose in a book. But when he looked up at him, he had no idea what was about to happen.
Eric felt anxiety wash over him. The peculiar man who had sat down in front of him was wearing a black suit and tie. This only ever spelled trouble in the past since it could have easily been an attorney for the company he was battling.
Corporations always tried conniving ways of getting what they wanted. Was this man here to buy him off with his Hollywood smile and perfect suit?
Eric’s mind was racing with the thoughts of whatever trouble would come from this. Maybe they were about to serve him a cease and desist? Or maybe they were going to find an equally devious way of stopping him.
The man in the suit stared at him for another few seconds before opening his mouth. But the offer he had for Eric would be something he could never refuse.
The man introduced himself as just Harry. This “Harry” told him that he had been watching Eric and wanted to offer him some kind of assistance. He saw that he was struggling with the books, and he was in a position to help.
Harry further explained that he was studying law and came to the library for the very same reason as Eric.
Harry knew a lot more about law than Eric did, and he wanted to help. Eric was understandably suspicious and told Harry about his predicament with the dumping of waste on his land.
Harry seemed almost as disgusted by this as Eric was and seemed more motivated to help now that he knew what the stakes were. But would Eric accept the help of a complete stranger?
Making A Deal
What Eric lacked in book smarts, he more than made up for in wisdom. He didn’t trust strangers easily and decided to make a deal with the studying lawyer to make sure he would keep his word.
He explained the deal to the lawyer so that he could trust him. But would he accept the proposal?
The deal was that the lawyer would sit with him and help explain some of the terminologies he had been struggling with. If he stuck around until Eric was finished for the day, he’d accept his help.
Eric expected him to leave immediately. Then he could carry on working on the books. But the lawyer did something completely unexpected.
To his surprise, Harry agreed and sat with him and explained everything he didn’t understand. He still didn’t expect him to last very long. Eric was a very motivated man and spent up to 6 hours studying sometimes.
But to his amazement, Harry stayed with him the entire time, patiently helping him wherever he needed it. A deal was a deal.
The Start Of The Tutorial
After gaining Eric’s trust, Harry made the ultimate arrangement with him. He agreed to tutor Eric every week to help him build his case against the chemical firm. Harry was an incredible help, but what about his opinion?
Harry had good news, the thought that the case was easy to win if Eric played his cards right. They just had to bide their time.
Eric and Harry became friends over the course of their tutoring. After six months of teaching Eric everything he knew, Harry had to leave the rest to the farmer. They were both confident that he could win the case.
But Eric still had a long road ahead. It would be a long time until he actually got his case ready, and he still had no idea how it would turn out.
6 Years Later
After 6 years, Wilson finally managed to complete and present the lawsuit. And after that, it took the courts 8 years more to process it and get the trial started.
Little is known about why this happened, but it seems to be related to the big firm’s connections to the political and judicial powers. But eventually, Wilson got a court decision about his case.
Finally, the court ruled that the chemical firm would have to pay almost more than $800,000 to Wilson and his neighbors in compensation for the damage done to their farms!
It seemed like Wilson had won a battle that seemed impossible. But shortly after the court’s decision, the chemical firm appealed. Wilson’s battle had just begun.
In order to protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events or places or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.