Erin Pattee Brokovich-Ellis
Advocate, Inspired movie bearing her name
Lawrence High School
She is an American legal clerk and environmental activist who, despite the lack of a formal law school education, or any legal education, was instrumental in constructing a case against the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) of California in 1993. 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. Since the release of the film, 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 is currently working as a consultant for Girardi & Keese the New York law firm Weitz & Luxenberg, which has a focus on personal injury claims for asbestos exposure, and Shine Lawyers in Australia.
She attended Kansas State University and graduated with an Associate in Applied Arts Degree from Wades Business College in Dallas, Texas. She worked a management trainee for Kmart in 1981 but quit after a few months and entered a beauty pageant. After winning Miss Pacific Coast in 1981, she gave up pageant life. She has lived in California since 1982.
Brockovich received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, and was Commencement Speaker at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles on May 5, 2008r . She also received an honorary Bachelor's degree from Jones International University and an honorary JD from Lewis & Clark Law School in Oregon.
The case alleged contamination of drinking water with hexavalent chromium, also known as chromium (VI), in the southern California town of Hinkley. At the center of the case was a facility called the Hinkley Compressor Station, part of a natural gas pipeline connecting to the San Francisco Bay Area and constructed in 1952. Between 1952 and 1966, PG&E used hexavalent chromium to fight corrosion in the cooling tower. The wastewater dissolved the hexavalent chromium from the cooling towers and was discharged to unlined ponds at the site. Some of the wastewater percolated into the groundwater, affecting an area near the plant approximately two miles long and nearly a mile wide. The case was settled in 1996 for US$333 million, the largest settlement ever paid in a direct-action lawsuit in US history.
Working with Thousand Oaks, California-based lawyer Edward L. Masry, Brockovich went on to participate in other anti-pollution lawsuits. 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. In 2009 Brockovich assisted in the filing of a lawsuit against Prime Tanning Corp. of St. Joseph, Missouri. 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 around the town of Cameron, Missouri, which is currently being investigated by the EPA. 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, Brockovich said "The only difference between here and Hinkley, is that I saw higher levels here than I saw in Hinkley.”
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.