Mann v. Ford: Shocking New Doc Exposes Deadly Corporate Greed

Corporations get away with murder in America. Think that’s just bleeding heart liberal socialist hysteria? Well, watch “Mann v. Ford,” the shocking new documentary now airing on HBO, and then we’ll talk.

The film chronicles the decades’ long plight of the Ramapough Mountain Indians fight against the Ford Motor Company. Living in the hills and forests of northern New Jersey, less than 40 miles from midtown Manhattan,for hundreds of years, the close knit, economically disadvantaged community’s way of life has been threatened since the late 1960s, when Ford, which had a plant in nearby Mahwah, bought their land and began dumping toxic waste in the woods and abandoned iron mines surrounding their homes.

In the 1980s, the Ramapough’s homeland was placed on the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of federally monitored Superfund sites – and supposedly cleaned up by Ford. However, thousands of tons of toxic waste were left behind. Where was the EPA? That question is answered by one of the newspaper reporters who broke the story with two choices. Corruption or incompetence. No one will ever know, and it really doesn’t matter. But your ire will certainly rage as you watch the residents suffer a range of mysterious ailments, including deadly cancers, skin rashes and high rates of miscarriage. And you’ll ask–along with the community and lawyers–where are all the old people? There are few people in Upper Ringwood who make it past 60.

In 2006 the residents filed a class action lawsuit seeking millions of dollars from Ford as compensation for their suffering. Ford denied all responsibility for the illnesses devastating the community and claimed its flawed cleanup had fully complied with all EPA rules.

The film by Maro Chermayeff and Micah Finks is a compelling doc that plays like a drama. It even features its own Erin Brockovich in lead attorney Vicki Gilliam, a southern firecracker with a social conscience who was forced to leave the case before the resolution. The images of Ford’s vintage cherry red paint bleeding into the land and kids playing in the polluted stream and mud, eating neon bright toxic paint chips are powerfully heartbreaking. A portrait of Americana gone awry. The memos and internal documents Ford actually wrote ( and audaciously filed) labeling the residents marginal and essentially expendable, are as shocking as they are deplorable.

But there would be no “Erin Brockovich” happy ending. With the economy sputtering and Ford on the brink of bankruptcy, the lawyers–who toiled for years and spent millions on the case–feared the plaintiffs would come away empty handed. And so they settled for a settlement that, while certainly better than nothing, left each of the over 600 plaintiffs with a meager pittance barely enough to cover a fraction of any medical bills.

Ford, by the way, survived in the auto bail-out and has posted record profits in the years following the settlement. Oh, and in case, you’re keeping score, the company managed to walk away with the gift settlement without ever taking any responsibility.

So many families suffered. So many people endured long grueling illnesses before dying young. And yet, no one went to jail. The company didn’t even pay all that much. Or accept any responsibility. Ain’t that America?

MANN v. FORD” tells the story of a small community’s epic battle against two American giants. It’s an important film that raises questions about corporate responsibility and social injustice. Just don’t expect any easy answers. Or a Hollywood ending.

Please follow Amy Beth Arkawy on Twitter.

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9 Responses to Mann v. Ford: Shocking New Doc Exposes Deadly Corporate Greed

  1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Sarita
    July 20, 2011 at 5:32 am

    Strong and relevant article – I for one want to see this documentary – thanks for pointing it out to us in your excellent and poignant article.

  2. -1 Vote -1 Vote +1Shana
    July 20, 2011 at 11:30 am

    Being someone who lives in this general area, we have been hearing about these atrocities for a long time.
    It is deplorable to think that such a large corporation, one where the high executives are still living an extremely high life, could think of other lives as expendable. No regard for human life, no regard for the environment, no regard for consequences of their actions down the road–just looking for a cheaper solution to dispose of their toxic waste.
    I will NEVER buy a Ford. That is not Un-American. That is socially conscious.

    • -1 Vote -1 Vote +1brianguy
      July 23, 2011 at 3:14 pm

      you can always buy a Chinese car… they never pollute the earth and always take full responsibility for their actions.

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    Vote -1 Vote +1Alexander7

  4. Vote -1 Vote +1brianguy
    July 23, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    “But there would be no “Erin Brockovich” happy ending. With the economy sputtering and Ford on the brink of bankruptcy, the lawyers–who toiled for years and spent millions on the case–feared the plaintiffs would come away empty handed. And so they settled for a settlement that, while certainly better than nothing, left each of the over 600 plaintiffs with a meager pittance barely enough to cover a fraction of any medical bills.

    Ford, by the way, survived in the auto bail-out and has posted record profits in the years following the settlement.”

    The plaintiffs’ claims are serious, but this statement is largely incorrect. Ford avoided bankruptcy but never took any federal bailout money. they also haven’t posted “record profits”, though the company is certainly back in the black. at least check your facts before publishing the article.

    so if the settlement was so terrible, why did the plaintiffs’ lawyers (who certainly get a healthy cut) push for them to agree to it after so many years of litigation? is it possible that it was the best possible form of restitution and acceptable agreement for both sides, based on available evidence?

    • +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Brandiewine73
      July 26, 2011 at 2:41 pm

      brianguy,
      Question: “so if the settlement was so terrible, why did the plaintiffs’ lawyers (who certainly get a healthy cut) push for them to agree to it after so many years of litigation? is it possible that it was the best possible form of restitution and acceptable agreement for both sides, based on available evidence?”
      Answer: Ever heard of Statutory Tort Reform??? State Caps? Do you know about the laws being pushed at the time of settlement? Tell me how $250,000 to $350,000 hurts a company like Ford? Then after those attorneys get their cut, the people can’t pay medical bills! And how do you put a price (or a “cap”) on all the miscarriages or babies with birth defects? “best possible form of restitution” Are you kidding me?!?!? They took the settlement out of FEAR!!! That’s why they ageed! Good grief man – walk away from your Kool-Aid so you can wake up and smell the coffee!

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    Vote -1 Vote +1Metodo Gabriel

  6. Vote -1 Vote +1Douglas O
    July 24, 2011 at 8:01 am

    A little reading for you which will give an insight into the thought processes of those pulling the leverls of power and the expendability of the little people with no power. This is how business is conducted.
    This,from Edwin Firmage’s website.
    http://web.me.com/edwinfirmage/Site/Eds_Corner/Entries/2011/1/16_Larry_Summers_Memo.html

  7. -1 Vote -1 Vote +1Alice Tubbs
    July 28, 2011 at 4:59 am

    I think the public should quit buying Fords, period.