Ethical Issues in Erin Brokovich – Movie Review Example
Ethical Issues in Erin Brokovich The film Erin Brokovich is the fictionalized account of a true life story in which a single mother, desperate to support her family, uncovers a corporate cover-up that’s sickening an entire town. The process begins when Erin’s lawyer loses a personal injury case she was counting on to help her support her family. Desperate for a job, Erin makes her lawyer feel so guilty for losing that he gives her a job as a legal assistant at a very low wage. As a part of her position, she comes across medical records involved in a real estate case and decides to satisfy her curiosity. Through her investigations, Erin uncovers a great corporate cover-up in which the power company, PG&E, has been aware of chemical contamination in the drinking water supply for years and has done nothing to protect the citizens but try to keep it quiet. Erin becomes very involved with the people of the town who have suffered the effects of chromium contamination and becomes distanced from her children and her boyfriend in the process. She has to continue to press the issue on her boss, who doesn’t feel he has the resources necessary to pursue the suit and this drives both of them almost to ruin. Throughout the film, there are a number of ethical issues to be confronted.
Erin is seen to make the biggest shift in the audience’s perception as the movie progresses. She browbeats her lawyer into giving her a job because she’s desperate and has no other options. It is because she’s snooping in private files that she discovers the problem with PG&E and it is because she is willing to nag incessantly that she convinces her boss to take the case. However, upon discovering the problem, and the implications of its severity, her ethics are no longer called into such question although her decisions become more difficult. Understanding the degree to which the people of the town are affected by the chemical contaminants, Erin realizes that she is neglecting her children and her boyfriend in order to pursue her interest in the case, particularly when she is working on her own time. This is obviously taking a toll on them, but she cannot bring herself to turn her back on the people she’s met. Thus, she begins to uncover the case that makes her famous through an act of privacy violation. However, the end results of her actions ends up winning the largest direct class action lawsuit for the citizens of the town, enabling them to get the treatment they need and some compensation for their losses.
Erin’s boss, Ed Masry, also has several conflicts of ethics. Although he is a professional lawyer with a professional firm, he feels responsibility for Erin’s welfare and that of her children. This is obvious as he never would have hired her otherwise as her bold clothing and brash attitude clash immediately with everyone else in the office. He also feels unable to keep up with the evidence Erin is bringing forward to him but cannot turn his back on her or the people she brings to him as he begins to realize the magnitude of the problem. While he remains frightened of the potential size of this case, he cannot avoid becoming involved either.
Erin’s children have the most difficult time understanding why their mother would be so willing to abandon them in order to help strangers. Erin’s constant distraction when she’s with the children and her frequent absences from the children begins to strain the family almost to the breaking point. Following in his mother’s footsteps, though, Matt discovers his mother’s files and reads about a child his own age who is very sick with the effects of chemical contamination. When he asks Erin why the boy’s mother won’t help him, she answers that the mother is too sick to do anything for him. It is at this point that Matt suddenly understands his mother’s passions and decides she has made the right ethical decision.