Unit 3 – Team B
Managerial Ethics – MAN 5066
This movie is based on a true story…an incident involving a massive cover-up by a conglomerate, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E). Masry & Vititoe is a law firm in California representing seriously injured victims of negligence and corporate injustice and Erin Brockovich is one of their employees. They have a reputation as a leader in Environmental Tort cases, which a major part of their focus, but they also represent clients with Catastrophic Personal Injury, Traumatic Brain Injury, Product Liability and other types of Class Action matters throughout the country.
While doing her clerical duties, Erin Brockovich became nosy about one particular case involving real estate deals in Hinkley, California and mysterious sicknesses—these real estate files contained medical records. She had no judiciary training or expertise nor was she intimidated by complicated red tape and statutes. PG&E knowingly and willingly exposed the unsuspecting residents to hazardous chemicals.
Her obsessive inquiries, her tenacity to get some answers, and whose discoveries and simple logical interpretations encouraged the residents to stand up and take legal action led to the nation’s largest settlement in a direct-action lawsuit. PG&E hid the facts and had it not been for Erin Brockovich and one employee of PG&E, they would have probably gotten away with it. Instead of shredding all of the evidence, he said the papers looked like they might be worth something (since his brother-in-law had severe nose bleeds after using the chemicals). Hexavalent chromium (chrome 6) was
Unit 3 Team B Discussion
determined to be a cancer-causing chemical in the 1920s and exposure was known to be especially dangerous to lungs. These chemicals were being used back in the early 60s long before the EPA started monitoring hazardous chemical usage and disposal. Although the RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act), which amended the Solid Waste Disposal Act of 1965, set national goals for:
--Protecting human health and the environment from the potential hazards of waste disposal. --Conserving energy and natural resources. --Reducing the amount of waste generated. --Ensuring that wastes are managed in an environmentally-sound manner.
In November 1984, Congress amended and strengthened the RCRA by the passing the Federal Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments (HSWA). It wasn’t until the 1980s before they required permits for hazardous materials and about 10 years more before they monitored the disposal.
What was the end results for all parties? The end result for all parties in the Erin Brockovich case was the discovery that Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) had dumped over 370 million gallons of cancercausing chemicals into a local California community's ponds, which seriously infected over 600 residents. The people who lived in and around Hinkley, California, in the
Unit 3 Team B Discussion
1960's, 70's and 80's had been severely compromised by exposure to toxic Chromium 6. The Chromium 6 had leaked into the groundwater from the nearby Pacific Gas and Electric Company's Compressor Station. After approximately 3 - 4 years from the time of uncovering exposure of toxic Chromium 6 caused by PG&E, followed by approximately 1 million documents reviewed by the legal team, with over several hundred depositions, and approximately 650 plaintiffs joining in the lawsuit; a global settlement was reached in 1996:
1) $333 million in compensation to over 600 Hinkley residents 2) Requirement for PG & E to clean up the environment 3) Requirement for PG & E to stop using Chromium 6
PG & E wrote the big check and the residents in the lawsuit received a compensation for damages. With this being the largest settlement in US history against toxic pollution, it became a landmark for other plaintiffs in...