Our Raleigh personal injury lawyers take a look at the 2000 film Erin Brockovich to explain how the famous case compensated innocent people who suffered due to no fault of their own. Plus, our injury law firm takes a look at contaminated water cases in North Carolina, specifically in Wake Forest and Camp Lejeune.
What negligence caused wrongdoing to innocent people? The film portrays the real-life events of legal clerk Erin Brockovich who worked for a personal injury law firm that represented families in a community where contaminated water was found. For over a decade, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) used a chemical called hexavalent chromium to deter corrosion in one of their facilities; the wastewater created from this use was stored in ponds on the property that were supposed to be lined, however they were not and groundwater used as drinking water by a neighboring community was contaminated. The innocent people living in the community suffered illnesses and health issues like cancer, infertility, and in some cases, death.
What personal injuries and professional negligence occurred? Businesses, especially those handling dangerous substances like hexavalent chromium, must follow strict containment and disposal guidelines. PG&E failed to comply and ensure the substances were in a controlled environment. For their negligence, PG&E was ordered to pay $333 million, the largest payout in US history in a direct-action lawsuit.
What happens in a North Carolina water contamination case? Our Raleigh personal injury lawyers blogged about the Wake Forest water contamination that was announced this year. A small Wake Forest community’s drinking water was found to have Trichloroethylene (TCE), which prompts liver complications, is linked to Parkinson’s, and is a carcinogen, causing leukemia, and breast and lung cancers. Similar to the case featured in the film Erin Brockovich, the chemical was used to clean equipment at a plant, however investigators are trying to determine how it leaked into the well water. According to local news reports, three plants in the vicinity are being inspected. One of the Wake Forest residents informed local news reporters that she has developed Parkinson’s and cysts in her breasts. One person in the community died of breast cancer; evidence has not proved a direct link yet.
While the plant investigations are taking place, the Wake Forest families wait to learn who is liable for the contamination and who will pay for medical treatment of health issues the TCE exposure may have caused. The families are also concerned about the liability of the State of North Carolina. State officials were notified of the presence of TCE in 2005, but failed to notify families. It wasn’t until 2012 when the EPA stepped in and called each residence and warned them to no longer use the water in their homes for bathing, drinking or eating. Since the call, the EPA has left safe water on doorsteps, installed special filters in high-risk homes, and held meetings to educate the community.
In a separate NC water contamination incident, Camp Lejeune’s water supply problem may be the largest contamination in the state’s history. The water contamination began in 1957 and didn’t end until thirty years later. It wasn’t until this past summer that President Obama signed the Janey Ensminger Act, which will provide medical care to those affected by exposure. Over 850 former base residents have filed claims and water tests in the 80s determined that the carcinogens in the water were 3,400 times the levels allowed by safety standards. One of the carcinogens present in the base’s water is TCE, the same discovered in Wake Forest.