Erin Brockovich

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This article is about the factual person. For the film based on her life, see Erin Brockovich (film).
Erin Brockovich
Erin Brockovich.jpg
Brockovich in 2012
Born Erin Pattee
(1960-06-22) June 22, 1960 (age 55)
Lawrence, Kansas, USA
Occupation President, Brockovich Research & Consulting[1]
Spouse(s) Shawn Brown (m. 1982-1987)
Steven Brockovich (m. 1989-1990)
Eric L. Ellis (m. 1998- )
Children 3

Erin Brockovich-Ellis (born June 22, 1960) is an American legal clerk and environmental activist, who, despite the lack of a formal education in the law, was instrumental in building a case against the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) of California in 1993. Since the release of the film that shares her story and name, she has hosted Challenge America with Erin Brockovich on ABC and Final Justice on Zone Reality. She is the president of Brockovich Research & Consulting, a consulting firm. She now works as a consultant for Girardi & Keese,[2][3] the New York law firm of Weitz & Luxenberg,[4] which has a focus on personal injury claims for asbestos exposure, and Shine Lawyers in Australia.[5]

Early life[edit]

She was born as Erin Pattee in Lawrence, Kansas, the daughter of Betty Jo (née O'Neal; 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.[6] 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 beauty pageant after the win. She has lived in California since 1982.

Pacific Gas and Electric litigation[edit]

The case alleged contamination of drinking water with hexavalent chromium (also written as "chromium VI", "Cr-VI" or "Cr-6") in the southern California town of Hinkley. 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 wastewater was discharged to unlined ponds at the site, and some percolated into the groundwater, affecting an area near the plant approximately 2 by 1 mile (3.2 by 1.6 km).[7] The Regional Water Quality Control Board ("RWQCB") put the PG&E site under its regulations in 1968 (Region six - RWQCB WDRs and subsequent RWQCB board orders).

The case was settled in 1996 for US$333 million, the largest settlement ever paid in a direct-action lawsuit in US history. Masry & Vititoe, the law firm for which Brockovich was a legal clerk, received 133.6 million dollars of that settlement, and Brockovich herself was given a bonus of two million dollars. However, the law firm didn't distribute the remaining money to the plaintiffs for more than six months until, after several threats of lawsuits, they finally paid out.[8] The firm also billed $10 million for undetailed expenses, in a violation of the American Bar Association's Model Rules of Professional Conduct.[9]

A study released in 2010 by the California Cancer Registry showed that cancer rates in Hinkley "remained unremarkable from 1988 to 2008".[10] 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.[10] A June 2013 Mother Jones magazine article featured an extensive critique from the Center for Public Integrity of the author's work on the later epidemiological studies.[11]

Average Cr-6 levels in Hinkley were recorded as 1.19 ppb with a peak of 3.09 ppb. 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.[12] California's Public Health Goal (PHG), circa 2011, for hexavalent chromium is 0.02 ppb.[13]

Other litigation[edit]

Working with Edward L. Masry, a lawyer based in Thousand Oaks, California, Brockovich went on to participate in other anti-pollution lawsuits. One of those accuses the Whitman Corporation of chromium contamination in Willits, California. Another lawsuit, which lists 1,200 plaintiffs, alleges 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, 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.[14] After experiencing the problems with mold contamination in her own home in the Conejo Valley, Brockovich became a prominent activist and educator in this 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.[15] 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.[16] In May 2007, the School District announced that it was to be paid $450,000 as reimbursement for legal expenses.[17]

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, which is currently being investigated by the EPA.[18]

In June 2009 Brockovich began investigating a case of contaminated water in Midland, Texas.[19] "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.[19] Brockovich said "The only difference between here and Hinkley is that I saw higher levels here than I saw in Hinkley."[19]

On April 20th, 2015, Brockovich made a statement on her Facebook page opposing fluoridation. [20]



Brockovich's work in bringing litigation against Pacific Gas and Electric is 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. Erin Brockovich herself had a cameo role as a waitress named Julia R.

Brockovich has a more extensive role in the 2012 documentary Last Call at the Oasis, which focuses not only on water pollution but also on the overall state of water scarcity as it relates to water policy in the United States.[22]


Brockovich's book, entitled Take It From Me: Life's a Struggle But You Can Win, was published in October 2001, and was on the NYT Business Bestseller's List.[23]


  1. ^ "Erin Brockovich Biography". Retrieved October 8, 2010. 
  2. ^ "Girardi & Keese Law Firm" (PDF). 
  3. ^ Maddaus, Gene (September 22, 2009). "Erin Brockovich goes after Shell Oil in Carson". Daily Breeze. 
  4. ^ McDonough, Molly (September 26, 2008). "Erin Brockovich Signs On With NYC Law Firm". ABA Journal. 
  5. ^ "Erin Brockovich Shines". Shine Lawyers. 
  6. ^ "Obituaries /". 
  7. ^ PG&E Hinkley Chromium Cleanup California Environmental Protection Agency, 9/10/08
  8. ^ Sharp, Kathleen. "'Erofn Brockovich': The Real Story". Salon. Retrieved 18 April 2013. 
  9. ^ "BILLING FOR PROFESSIONAL FEES, DISBURSEMENTS AND OTHER EXPENSES" (PDF). ABA Comm. on Ethics and Professional Responsibility, Formal Op. 93-379. American Bar Association. Retrieved 18 April 2013. 
  10. ^ a b Schwartz, Naoki (2010-12-13) "Survey shows unremarkable cancer rate in CA town", The Boston Globe Dec 13, 2010
  11. ^ "Erin Brockovich's Biggest Debunker, Debunked". Mother Jones. 
  12. ^ PG&E Background Study
  13. ^ Baes, Michael (July 29, 2011). "Final Technical Support Document on Public Health Goal for Hexavalent Chromium in Drinking Water". Water. Oakland, CA: California Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved April 23, 2012. The PHG [Public Health Goal] for hexavalent chromium is established at 0.02 parts per billion (ppb). 
  14. ^ "ACTIVIST ERIN BROCKOVICH SETTLES HOME MOLD SUIT". Retrieved October 27, 2014. 
  15. ^ Beverly Hills Mystery People Magazine. May 19, 2003, Accessed May 30, 2009.
  16. ^ "More Brockovich Claims Tossed." Balance. Civil Justice Association of California. Third Quarter 2007, p.2.
  17. ^ Justice Served as City of Beverly Hills and Beverly Hills Unified School District Receive Reimbursement in Oil Well Litigation, CJAC press release, Oct 9, 2007.
  18. ^ Lawsuit alleges fertilizer was contaminated around Cameron, Mo.
  19. ^ a b c "Brockovich: Midland, Texas Water Sullied." CBS News. June 10, 2009. Accessed June 10, 2009.
  20. ^ "Erin Brockovich fluoridation opposition statement". 
  21. ^ a b c Erin Brockovich Awards. Retrieved April 23, 2012.
  22. ^ Turan, Kenneth (May 4, 2012). "Movie review: 'Last Call at the Oasis' smartly sounds alarm on water". Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California: Tribune Company). Retrieved May 9, 2012. 
  23. ^ "Take It From Me: Life's a Struggle But You Can Win." Retrieved December 1, 2009.

External links[edit]