Introduction Erin Brockovich is a movie that dramatizes the story of Erin Brockovich’s legal fight against the energy giant Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E). The film is directed by Steven Soderbergh and actress Julia Roberts plays the lead role for which she subsequently won the Academy Award for Best Actress. The movie brings into light the events Erin Brockovich went through in her life in the 1990’s, from being an unemployed single mother, to filing litigation against PG&E, and winning a huge compensation for the residents of Hinkley.
After losing a personal injury lawsuit against a doctor in a car accident Erin Brockovich forces her lawyer, Edward Masry, to give her a job in his law firm. Ed appoints her as a clerk in his office, where she comes across a real-estate case filed by a resident of Hinkley. Erin gets suspicious on seeing medical records in the file and begins digging into the particulars of the case. After investigating further, she discovers a cover-up of the water contamination in the town of Hinkley’s water supply. This was a result of the use of Hexavalent Chromium by PG&E in their plants and had potentially caused the health problems to the community.
She finds that PG&E was aware of the threat and had misguided residents on the chemical that were used in the plants. Erin puts her whole hearted effort to bring the residents together to fight against PG&E and ultimately wins the largest toxic injury settlement in U. S. history: $333 million in damages to more than 600 Hinkley residents. Stereotypes in the Movie Single Mother – Erin is a single mother struggling to keep her and her three kids lives afloat. She overcomes the stereotype of being a helpless, single mother by demanding that Ed give her a job and then working harder than any of the others at Ed’s small law firm.
The other people in the office do not think that the Ed should have hired Erin because of the way that she dresses. Slutty Wardrobe – Erin usually dressed quite provocative and her outfits would certainly be deemed inappropriate for most corporate environments. She overcomes this stereotype as well with hard work and being herself. Overcoming this stereotype is mostly shown as the residents of Hinkley notice how down to earth she is and that she actually cares about them and has a sincere desire to help them. This stereotype is also shown as another law firm teams up with Ed in an effort to further the case along.
The employees of the new law firm assume the same things about Erin and she has to prove to them how knowledgable she is and how hardworking she is regarding the case against PG&E. After their assumed stereotypes are proven wrong they quickly notice what an asset Erin is to the case. Selfish Lawyers – Another stereotype that is proven wrong in this movie is that all lawyers only have their own interests in mind. Ed Masry overcomes this by continually showing Erin that he notices the hard work she does and also wants to help the community of Hinkley. Some examples of this are when he increases Erin’s pay and buys her a car.
Also at the end of the movie when he gives Erin a two million dollar bonus check for all of her hard work on the case. Ethical Dilemmas in the Movie The movie provides lot of instances where the characters are faced with moral questions and are required to take decisions on them. Erin forcing Ed to give her a job – Erin was in a situation where she could not have afforded Ed’s fees but wanted him to run her case. Ed started avoiding her and did not return any phone call on the progress of the case. Erin was in such a bad situation during that time that she decided to force Ed to give her a job instead of fighting her car accident case.
Now here it may seem the Erin is unethical and forcing Ed to give her job but looking at her situation one might say that she is looking at short term vs. long term solution and feels that this is probably her best chance to get some stability. On the other hand Ed is facing a dilemma to either show mercy on Erin and give her a job or do justice by not allowing her in the office as he is not in need of any additional staff and is not responsible for Erin’s situation. Erin Brockovich and the PG case – Erin just happened to look at a case in her law firm which was related to Real Estate.
She was surprised to see copies of medical records with it and that’s what made her suspicious. On investigating further she finds that the residents of Hinkley are in constant medical threat because of the water they have been using for daily use. The water was contaminated with chromium 6 that was used in PG plants. Residents were kept in the dark on what effect it could have on their health. Erin started off with this case and saw an opportunity to sue PG and make money out of it and improve her financial condition.
However, as she went deeper into the case and heard stories of the residents of Hinkley, it became a moral issue for her. She realized that the residents of Hinkley had empowered her to fight for what they had gone through and bring PG to justice in the court of law. Thus what started as a real estate case filed by a single resident became a fight of a community against a corporate giant. As the movie reached its climax, it could be observed that Erin had put a lot of thought on what could be the best way to get justice to the residents of Hinkley.
She collected all the relevant facts, fought with Ed to make sure that the partner he was working with was not just a move for financial gain and convinced the residents that the approach they were taking in the case would result the best possible outcome in their favor. Although the residents had different opinions, Erin helped them realize that a settlement would be the best way to get a fast and fair compensation in this matter. She knew that no monetary gain would be able to heal the emotional pain of the residents, but believed that the settlement would at least give the residents enough money to have a peaceful future.
The case against PG concluded in 1996, with PG paying $333 million in damages to more than 600 Hinkley residents. It was also pointed out in the movie that PG stopped using Chromium 6 in their plants after the settlement and the entire experience gave Erin the inspiration to continue working on the environmental issues and fight for truth. All in all a win – win situation for all the parties involved. Conclusion The movie, which is based on a true story, provides one of the various accounts where a corporate giant has ignored the environmental impact of its business and paid heavily for it.
The movie highlights the great determination of a woman who just cannot withstand the way the health of countless people has been compromised by the corporations bottom line. Although she made good money out of the case, the movie showed that her real motive was to get the truth out and extend her friendship and help to the residents of Hinkley. As she puts in her own words on her website – “If you follow your heart, if you listen to your gut, and if you extend your hand to help another, not for any agenda, but for the sake of humanity, you are going to find the truth”.