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Erin Brockovich Case

Essay by   •  October 18, 2012  •  Essay  •  425 Words (2 Pages)  •  1,521 Views

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Erin Brockovich is an inspirational woman who is family oriented as well as outspoken. After numerous attempts at finding a job, Brockovich is hired in the legal office of Ed Masry as a file clerk. During her routine job of maintaining the files, Brockovich comes across something that intrigues her, the Jenkins case. As she tries to figure out why Mrs. Jenkins would need to include her personal health information in the file to sell her house, Erin asks Masry if she could look deeper into the case. After a week worth of investigation, Brockovich finds out that PG&E has been poisoning the water supply of Hinckley with hexavalent chromium. The power plant has been letting this highly toxic chromium seep into the ground, affecting the water, which the inhabitants of the town use. With this information, Masry wants to charge PG&E with punitive damages, but under California Civil Code Section 3294, the only way is to prove that a manager or director of the corporation ratified the wrongful act. After much hardships to prove PG&E approved what was going on in the Hinckley plantation, Brockovich stumbles upon a former employee of PG&E who was ordered to shred memos but instead stole the information and quit his job. Punitive damages serve a dual beneficial purpose; discouraging PG&E and other corporations from using harmful chemicals and setting an example of PG&E as to daunt others from engaging in the same or similar types of wrongdoing.

Punitive damages, which Ed Masry was charging PG&E for, are only available in intentional tort laws. Tort laws are a body of civil wrongs for which the law will equalize either by providing money for the damages, or prohibition of such conduct. PG&E did not commit a crime because they did not want to intentionally harm the citizens of Hinckley, however, they are held accountable for their actions since they planned the consequences that would result from their act. After hexavalent chromium flooded Hinckley's waterways, PG&E held a town meeting, where they told the townspeople they should not worry about the chromium in their water supply since chromium 3 is good for the human body. However, PG&E was using chromium 6. By holding the town meeting, they started the statute of limitations, which then allowed the townspeople one year to file any suits against them. Hexavalent chromium, chromium 6, did not start affecting any of the townspeople until after one year and the townspeople no longer could sue.

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