June 22, 1960
Lawrence, Kansas, US
(m. 1982; div. 1987)
(m. 1989; div. 1990)
Eric L. Ellis
(m. 1998; div. 2012)
Erin Brockovich (née Pattee; born June 22, 1960) is an American legal clerk, consumer advocate, and environmental activist who, despite her lack of education in the law, was instrumental in building a case against Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) involving groundwater contamination in a town in California with the help of attorney Ed Masry in 1993. Their successful lawsuit was the subject of the Oscar-winning film, Erin Brockovich (2000), starring Julia Roberts as Brockovich and Albert Finney as Masry. Since then, Brockovich has become a media personality as well, hosting the TV series Challenge America with Erin Brockovich on ABC and Final Justice on Zone Reality. She is the president of Brockovich Research & Consulting. She also works as a consultant for the New York law firm of Weitz & Luxenberg, which has a focus on personal injury claims for asbestos exposure, and Shine Lawyers in Australia. She worked as a consultant for the now-defunct California law firm Girardi & Keese.
Brockovich was born Erin Pattee in Lawrence, Kansas, the daughter of Betty Jo (born O'Neal; c. 1923–2008), a journalist, and Frank Pattee (1924–2011), an industrial engineer and football player. She has two brothers, Frank Jr. and Thomas (1954–1992), and a sister, Jodie. She graduated from Lawrence High School, then attended Kansas State University, in Manhattan, Kansas, and graduated with an Associate in Applied Arts Degree from Wade College in Dallas, Texas.
She worked as a management trainee for Kmart in 1981, but quit after a few months and entered a beauty pageant. She won Miss Pacific Coast in 1981, and left the world of beauty pageants after the win.
Pacific Gas & Electric litigation
The case (Anderson, et al. v. Pacific Gas & Electric, file BCV 00300) alleged contamination of drinking water with hexavalent chromium (also written as "chromium 6", "chromium VI", "Cr-VI" or "Cr-6") in the town of Hinkley, near Barstow in southern California. At the center of the case was a facility, the Hinkley compressor station, built in 1952 as a part of a natural-gas pipeline connecting to the San Francisco Bay Area. Between 1952 and 1966, PG&E used hexavalent chromium in a cooling tower system to fight corrosion. The waste water was discharged to unlined ponds at the site, and some of the waste water percolated into the groundwater, affecting an area of approximately 2 square miles (5.2 km2) near the plant. The Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) put the PG&E site under its regulations in 1968.
The case was settled in 1996 for (US) $333 million, the largest settlement ever paid in a direct-action lawsuit in United States history to that date. Masry & Vititoe, the law firm for which Brockovich was a legal clerk, received $133.6 million of that settlement, and Brockovich received $2.5 million as part of her fee.
A study released in 2010 by the California Cancer Registry showed that cancer rates in Hinkley "remained unremarkable from 1988 to 2008". An epidemiologist involved in the study said that the 196 cases of cancer reported during the most recent survey of 1996 through 2008 were fewer than what he would expect based on demographics and the regional rate of cancer. However, in June 2013, Mother Jones magazine featured a critique from the Center for Public Integrity of the author's work on the later epidemiological studies.
As of 2016[update], average Cr-6 levels in Hinkley were recorded as 1.19 ppb with a peak of 3.09 ppb.[needs update] For comparison, the PG&E Topock Compressor Station on the California-Arizona border averaged 7.8 ppb with peaks of 31.8 ppb based on a PG&E Background Study.
Working with Edward L. Masry, a lawyer based in Thousand Oaks, California, Brockovich went on to participate in other anti-pollution lawsuits. One suit accused the Whitman Corporation of chromium contamination in Willits, California. Another, which listed 1,200 plaintiffs, alleged contamination near PG&E's Kettleman Hills compressor station in Kings County, California, along the same pipeline as the Hinkley site. The Kettleman suit was settled for $335 million in 2006.
In 2003, after experiencing problems with mold contamination in her own home in the Conejo Valley, Brockovich received settlements of $430,000 from two parties, and an undisclosed amount from a third party, to settle her lawsuit alleging toxic mold in her Agoura Hills, California, home. Brockovich then became a prominent activist and educator in the area as well.
Brockovich and Masry filed suit against the Beverly Hills Unified School District in 2003, in which the district was accused of harming the health and safety of its students by allowing a contractor to operate a cluster of oil wells on campus. Brockovich and Masry alleged that 300 cancer cases were linked to the oil wells. Subsequent testing and epidemiological investigation failed to corroborate a substantial link, and Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Wendell Mortimer granted summary judgment against the plaintiffs. In May 2007, the school district announced that it was to be paid $450,000 as reimbursement for legal expenses.
Brockovich assisted in the filing of a lawsuit against Prime Tanning Corp. of St. Joseph, Missouri in April 2009. The lawsuit claims that waste sludge from the production of leather, containing high levels of hexavalent chromium, was distributed to farmers in northwest Missouri to use as fertilizer on their fields. It is believed to be a potential cause of an abnormally high number of brain tumors (70 since 1996) around the town of Cameron, Missouri. The site was investigated by the EPA and the agency found "no detections of total chromium" and further stated that the 70 brain tumors were not abnormally high for the population size.
In June 2009, Brockovich began investigating a case of contaminated water in Midland, Texas. "Significant amounts" of hexavalent chromium were found in the water of more than 40 homes in the area, some of which have now been fitted with state-monitored filters on their water supply. Brockovich said: "The only difference between here and Hinkley is that I saw higher levels here than I saw in Hinkley."
In 2012, Brockovich became involved in the mysterious case of 14 students from LeRoy, New York, who began reporting perplexing medical symptoms, including tics and speech difficulties. Brockovich believed environmental pollution from the 1970 Lehigh Valley Railroad derailment was the cause, and conducted testing in the area. Brockovich was supposed to return to LeRoy to present her findings, but never did; in the meantime, the students' doctors determined the cause was mass psychogenic illness, and that the media exposure was exacerbating the symptoms. No environmental causes were found after repeat testing, and the students improved once the media attention died down.
In 2015, Brockovich expressed antagonism toward vaccine mandates. In early 2016, Brockovich became involved in potential litigation against Southern California Gas for a large methane leak from its underground storage facility near the community of Porter Ranch north of Los Angeles.
- Honorary Doctor of Laws and commencement speaker at Lewis & Clark Law School, Portland, Oregon, in May 2005
- Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters and commencement speaker at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, California, on May 5, 2007
- Honorary Master of Arts, Business Communication, from Jones International University, Centennial, Colorado
Movies and television
Brockovich's work in bringing litigation against Pacific Gas & Electric was the focus of the 2000 feature film Erin Brockovich, starring Julia Roberts in the title role. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards: Best Actress in a Leading Role, Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Writing in a Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen. Roberts won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Erin Brockovich. Brockovich herself had a cameo role as a waitress named Julia R.
Brockovich originally recorded a cameo role in the 2007 animated film The Simpsons Movie, based on the long-running animated sitcom The Simpsons. However, Brockovich's role was ultimately cut from the film.
Brockovich had a more extensive role in the 2012 documentary Last Call at the Oasis, which focused on not only water pollution but also the overall state of water scarcity as it relates to water policy in the United States.
Books and articles
On February 8, 2022, Brockovich wrote an article talking about the case of Steven Donziger, a lawyer who won a $18 billion judgment against Chevron before being jailed for contempt of court after refusing to turn his phone and computer over to Chevron's legal team.
Brockovich has three children: a son Matthew and a daughter Katie from her first marriage to Shawn Brown, and a daughter Elizabeth "Beth" from her second marriage to Steven Brockovich. Her third husband was actor and country musician DJ, Eric L. Ellis. As of 2016, Brockovich resides in Agoura Hills, California, in a house she purchased in 1996 with her US$2.5 million bonus after the Hinkley settlement.
- McDonough, Molly (September 26, 2008). "Erin Brockovich Signs On With NYC Law Firm". ABA Journal.
- "Erin Brockovich Shines". Shine Lawyers. Archived from the original on 3 April 2018.
- "Girardi & Keese Law Firm" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-15.
- Maddaus, Gene (September 22, 2009). "Erin Brockovich goes after Shell Oil in Carson". Daily Breeze. Archived from the original on October 7, 2009.
- "Obituaries / LJWorld.com". ljworld.com.
- "Erin Brockovich and Hexavalent Chromium". SkillMD. Retrieved 2019-05-26.
- "PG&E Hinkley Chromium Cleanup". swrcb.ca.gov. California State Water Resources Control Board. September 10, 2008. Retrieved November 24, 2020.
- Campbell, Duncan (10 December 2001). "What Erin Brockovich did next". The Guardian. Retrieved November 24, 2020.
- Schwartz, Naoki (December 13, 2010). "Survey shows unremarkable cancer rate in CA town". The Boston Globe. Associated Press. Retrieved November 24, 2020 – via Boston.com.
- Heath, David (June 3, 2013). "Erin Brockovich's Biggest Debunker, Debunked". Mother Jones. Retrieved November 24, 2020.
- "Frequently Asked Questions About PG&E's Background Chromium Study In Hinkley" (PDF). swrcb.ca.gov. California State Water Resources Control Board. Retrieved November 24, 2020.
- Roberts, Laura (June 17, 2010). "BP Oil Disaster: Major compensation payouts from other global corporations". Telegraph.co.uk. Archived from the original on 2022-01-12. Retrieved November 24, 2020.
- "Activist Erin Brockovich Settles Home Mold Suit". Archived from the original on October 27, 2014. Retrieved October 27, 2014.
- "Beverly Hills Mystery". People. May 19, 2003. Retrieved May 30, 2009.
- "More Brockovich Claims Tossed" (PDF). Balance. Civil Justice Association of California: 2. Third Quarter 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 1, 2011 – via CJAC.org.
- "Justice Served as City of Beverly Hills and Beverly Hills Unified School District Receive Reimbursement in Oil Well Litigation". CJAC.org (Press release). Civil Justice Association of California. October 9, 2007. Archived from the original on July 12, 2015. Retrieved November 24, 2020.
- Umansky, Eric (2005). "Muckraker 90210: A Most Unlikely Reporter Nails Erin Brockovich". Columbia Journalism Review. Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Archived from the original on February 4, 2005. Retrieved November 24, 2020 – via CJR.org.
- "Lawsuit alleges fertilizer was contaminated around Cameron, Mo". kansascity.com. Archived from the original on April 28, 2009.
- "Brockovich: Midland, Texas Water Sullied". CBS News. June 10, 2009. Retrieved June 10, 2009.
- Almasy, Steve; Spellman, Jim (February 4, 2012). "N.Y. town still baffled by teens' mysterious tics". CNN. Retrieved 2012-02-04.
- "What Really Happened To The Girls In Le Roy?". WGRZ.com. February 21, 2013. Archived from the original on June 28, 2013. Retrieved 2013-06-25.
- "School's end clears up New York students' mystery twitching". Reuters. June 23, 2012.
- Brockovich, Erin [@ErinBrockovich] (June 25, 2015). "My kids, my grand-kids and I are all #vaccinated but I'll be damned if any government is going to tell me what to put in my or kids bodies" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- "Awards". brockovich.com. Erin Brockovich. Archived from the original on January 22, 2013. Retrieved April 23, 2012.
- Snierson, Dan (July 20, 2007). "The Simpsons Movie: Inside Homer's Odyssey". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved October 1, 2021.
- Turan, Kenneth (May 4, 2012). "Movie review: 'Last Call at the Oasis' smartly sounds alarm on water". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California. Retrieved May 9, 2012.
- Ausiello, Michael (January 25, 2021). "ABC Shakes Up Thursday Lineup: Million Little Things Out, Rebel In — Plus, Grey's Anatomy Return Delayed". TVLine. Retrieved February 10, 2021.
- "Superman's Not Coming". penguinrandomhouse.com. Penguin Random House. Retrieved November 24, 2020.
- Brockovich, Erin (18 March 2021). "Plummeting sperm counts, shrinking penises: toxic chemicals threaten humanity". The Guardian. London, United Kingdom. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2021-03-18.
- "This lawyer should be world-famous for his battle with Chevron – but he's in jail". The Guardian. February 8, 2022. Retrieved February 12, 2022.
- Friedman, Ann (Fall–Winter 2016). "Erin Brockovich". The Gentlewoman. No. 14. Archived from the original on March 20, 2021. Retrieved March 20, 2021.
- Official website of Erin Brockovich
- The Brockovich Report BrockovichBlog.com
- Brockovich Village
- Official MySpace of Erin Brockovich
- Erin Brockovich biography on the Biography Channel
- Erin Brockovich at IMDb
- Evening with Erin Brockovich in Sydney, hosted by the Climate Change Coalition 2007
- Detail about Hinkley case at AwesomeStories.com
- Did Hinkley Residents Really Win? at salon.com
- Weitz & Luxenberg PC
- Shine Lawyers Australia
- Environmental Justice Society
- Erin Brockovich video produced by Makers: Women Who Make America