The PG&E / Hinkley case is a case of industrial pollution catastrophe resulting in massive personal injury (including bloody noses, various intestinal ailments, bad backs, rotten teeth and tumors.)
In the 2000 film Erin Brockovich, Julia Roberts told the story of a single mom who brought down an American powerhouse, despite her lack of formal education. The real Erin was the youngest of four children born in Lawrence, Kansas. After earning an Associate degree in Applied Arts from Wade College in Dallas, Texas, she moved to California in 1982.
Brockovich became famous for her involvement in the case against Pacific Gas and Electric, representing victims in the southern California town of Hinkley. Between 1952 and 1966, PG&E used hexavalent chromium to guard against corrosion in the cooling tower. The wastewater dissolved the hexavalent in the cooling towers, which discharged to unlined ponds at the site. As a result, some wastewater percolated into the groundwater, which affected an area near the plant approximately two by one mile in size. PG&E settlement: When the case against PG&E settled in 1996 for $333 million, it was the largest settlement ever paid in a direct-action lawsuit in United States history. Brockovich’s attorneys received 133.6 million dollars from the settlement, while Brockovich herself received two million as a bonus. However, in the real story, Brockovich’s attorneys held onto her portion of the money for six months. They finally paid her portion after she threatened several lawsuits. Her law firm also billed $10 million for undetailed expenses, which constituted a violation of the ABA’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct.
Brockovich’s work against PG&E was the focus of the 2000 feature film, starring Julia Roberts. The film earned five Academy Award nominations, including Best Actress in a Leading Role, Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Writing in a Screenplay. Roberts won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Erin Brockovich.
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