Erin Brockovich's Firm Kept Millions That Could Have Gone to Victims
The Story You Saw: Erin Brockovich
Julia Roberts, venturing outside of her comfort zone by playing someone we're supposed to like, is Erin Brockovich, an unemployed and divorced mother of three. She gets a low-level job as a clerk at a law firm and devotes herself to standing up for the little guy.
With no legal training to speak of and a closet full of shirts that push her breasts out like they haven't paid rent in three months, she proceeds to bring a huge class-action lawsuit against major gas company PG&E for poisoning the water supply of Hinkley, California. Erin and her boss, Ed, work tirelessly to bring justice for the town's residents, and in the end, Brockovich wins $333 million for 648 residents and receives a $2 million bonus check.
"Wow. Guess I can pay Richard Gere back for those clothes. Too bad I still dress like a hooker."
The Unpleasant Epilogue
As soon as she received that check, the real-life Brockovich became exactly like the film's rich-dick villains, only richer and dickier, like when Shredder turned into Super Shredder.
Instead of taking PG&E to court in full view of the public, Brockovich's firm convinced the residents of Hinkley to settle through private arbitration, where everything would be secret and the lawyers were basically accountable to nobody. After settling on the $333 million, the money wasn't given to the townspeople to pay for their medical bills until six months later. That's how long Erin's firm held onto the cash, giving the lawyers just enough time to have their way with each and every $100 bill.
"The money needed time to marinate. In our juices."
When Hinkley's residents contacted Erin about their concerns ("concerns" is a term that here means "money for our cancer bills"), they found that their one-time advocate was now unreachable. Once they finally received the money, they noticed that it was far less than they expected. That's because the law firm, wanting more than the agreed-upon 40 percent of the settlement ($133 million), took an extra $10 million for "expenses."
Then, in an act that would make Satan himself issue a public apology, Brockovich's firm screwed the kids with cancer by taking a third of their settlements, even though it's an extraordinarily unusual and universally frowned upon practice to take more than 25 percent. Hinkley's residents also noticed that there was no rationale behind how much money each resident received, but the rules of private arbitration prevented them from finding out the formula used to determine the settlements.