Few movies capture the spirit of Women’s History Month like Erin Brockovich. Based on a true story, the film centers around an unemployed single mother who, despite having no formal legal training, investigated and helped prosecute a major California energy company for poisoning a small town’s water supply.
2016 marks the 20th anniversary of the landmark settlement.
As if raising three children on her own isn’t difficult enough, Erin Brockovich (Julia Roberts), is also out of work and injured from a car accident. Brockovich hires a lawyer, Ed Masry (Albert Finney), to sue the man who injured her, but her case is unsuccessful. Because she now doesn’t have any money or a job, she strong-arms her way into a file clerk position with Masry’s firm. It doesn’t take long for the shrewd woman to discover an insidious environmental conspiracy orchestrated by the California energy giant, Pacific Gas and Electric. For decades the company has been illegally dumping waste containing the highly carcinogenic compound hexavalent chromium into the ground water of the small town of Hinkley, and now many of the residents have developed aggressive cancers.
Although Brockovich was hired as a simple file clerk, she upends her life to investigate and prosecute the PG&E, bringing justice and financial compensation to those affected by the company’s negligence. PG&E eventually settled for 333 million USD, making it the largest toxic tort injury settlement ever paid in U.S. history. Brockovich’s involvement was pivotal in this major settlement, which paved the way for her successful career as a legal consultant.
Julia Roberts won an Academy Award for her role as Erin Brockovich, and it’s easy to see why: Roberts’ acting is superb in this film. And it’s even more amazing when we remember that this character is based on a real woman whose tenacity and perseverance is truly inspiring not just to women, but to anyone who refuses to let sleeping dogs lie.