She was hired as a file clerk by the Southern California-based law firm Masry and Vititoe. It was while filing papers in an ordinary property case that she came across medical records that caught her eye.
She began to research the matter and her investigations eventually established that the health of hundreds of people who lived in and around Hinkley, California, in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, had been severely compromised by exposure to toxic chromium 6 — levels of which have been found on the site of the former Irish Steel plant on Haulbowline Island in Cork Harbour.
Ms Brockovich established that the same toxin had leaked into the groundwater supplying Hinkley from the Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s compressor station nearby.
In 1996, as a result of the largest direct action lawsuit of its kind, spearheaded by Ms Brockovich and Ed Masry, the company paid the largest toxic tort injury settlement in US history — $333 million (€211m) in damages to more than 600 Hinkley residents.
The case inspired the hit 2000 movie Erin Brockovich, starring Julia Roberts. She won an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and a BAFTA Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Brockovich.
As a result, Ms Brockovich shot to international fame. She wrote a book, Take It from Me: Life’s a Struggle, But You Can Win.
Today, she is one of the most requested lecture clients of the William Morris Agency — the global talent and literary agency.
She travels the world doing personal appearances, spreading motivational messages, telling her story and telling of her life lessons.
She is president of the consulting firm, Brockovich Research and Consulting, where she is involved in numerous environmental cases.
She lives in southern California with her third husband, Eric Ellis, and her three children, Matthew, Katie and Elizabeth.