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Erin Brockovich testifies in favor of increasing her income

Reuters, Tuesday, March 28, "Erin Brockovich pushes for disease cluster law":

(Reuters) - Erin Brockovich, a U.S. consumer health advocate whose life story was the basis for an Academy Award-winning film, urged senators Tuesday to pass a law to document disease clusters in the United States.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) called the hearing Tuesday by the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee, entitled, "Oversight Hearing on Disease Clusters and Environmental Health."

In news coverage, Brockovich was identified as "environmental whistleblower" (Cleveland Plain Dealer), " high wattage environmental advocate" (Raleigh News and Observer) and "consumer advocate" (Northwest Arkansas Newspapers). The Detroit News essayed a  "paralegal-cum-activist."

Reporters might have informed their readers by noting Brockovich's obvious self-interest. She runs Brockovich Research & Consulting, a PR front and source of referrals for assorted trial lawyer operations. As the LAObserved.com website reported in March, 2010, "Where's Erin Brockovich?"

She advises people who believe they’ve been hurt by contamination by getting them connected with public agencies and lawyers, who pay her, says the cover story in this week's L.A. Business Journal.

She also has popped up on TV commercials lately. That’s because she works as a consultant for New York personal injury and mass tort firm Weitz & Luxenberg, partly as a spokeswoman. She has a similar role with an Australian personal injury firm named Shine Lawyers. She also works with, but has not worked as a spokeswoman for, downtown L.A. plaintiffs’ firm Girardi & Keese.

The more you can generate public panic and anecdote-based health complaints, the greater the potential for litigation, the greater potential for Brockovich making big bunches of money.

We don't see the L.A. Business Journal piece online anymore, but in November the paper covered a book debunking the activist-cum-litigation-shill, "Erin Brockovich and the Beverly Hills Greenscam" by Norma Zager.

And the case that made Brockovich famous? Tim Cavanaugh, Reason Online, Dec. 13, 2010, "'Erin Brockovich' Town Shows No Cancer Cluster." Also, Walter Olson, Overlawyered, "Below-average cancer rates found in town of Brockovich fame."

P.S. The Plain Dealer presents a balanced report on the hearing chaired by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), noting the objections raised by Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) and critical testimony.

One committee witness, former government economist and risk analyst Richard Belzer, said that he is concerned that "well-meaning efforts to identify and respond to bona fide disease clusters caused by environmental factors may unwittingly backfire."

The bill's goal is so broad -- to protect pregnant women, infants, children and other individuals who have been or could be harmed -- that it could inevitably lead to over-regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency, Belzer said.

Belzer's prepared testimony is available here.

Boxer's hearing was tied to her bill,  S. 76, the Strengthening Protections for Children and Communities From Disease Clusters Act. She had a big day back in January:

  • S.77 : Pollution and Costs Reduction Act Sponsor: Sen Boxer, Barbara [CA] (introduced 1/25/2011)      Cosponsors (1)
  • S.78 : Protecting Pregnant Women and Children From Perchlorate Act of 2011 Sponsor: Sen Boxer, Barbara [CA] (introduced 1/25/2011)      Cosponsors (None)
  • S.79 : Protecting Pregnant Women and Children From Hexavalent Chromium Act of 2011 Sponsor: Sen Boxer, Barbara [CA] (introduced 1/25/2011)      Cosponsors (1)

(We updated this for style by editing out a quote up high from a 2010 Palm Beach Post story about Brockovich's Florida law firm connections. )

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.