Erin Brockovich grew up in Kansas, the youngest child of an industrial engineer and a journalist. After graduating from Lawrence High School she attended Kansas State University then moved to Dallas, Texas, where she earned her Associate in Applied Arts degree at Wades Business College.
In 1991, after being seriously injured in a traffic accident Erin hired Jim Vititoe of Masry & Vititoe to handle her insurance case. Not long after the case was resolved, she was hired to work at the law firm as a file clerk. While organising papers in a pro-bono real estate case, Erin Brockovich found medical records in the file that caught her eye. After getting permission from one of the firm's principals, Ed Masry, she began to research the matter.
Erin's investigation eventually established that the health of countless people who lived in and around Hinkley, California, in the 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. In 1996, as a result of the largest direct action lawsuit of its kind, spearheaded by Erin Brockovich and Ed Masry, the giant utility paid the largest toxic tort injury settlement in US history: $333 million in damages to more than 600 Hinkley residents.
Erin Brockovich's investigating inspired the hit movie named after her, Erin Brockovich, which highlighted her legal triumph and personal challenges. Released in 2000 by Universal Studios, it starred Hollywood actress Julia Roberts as Erin Brockovich.
The movie's great success led to numerous awards and nominations, including 5 Academy Award nominations and one win. Steven Soderbergh was nominated for an Oscar for Best Director, and Julia Roberts won an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and a BAFTA Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Erin.