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ALDEN, Xian Justin R.

January 22, 2018


2 - JD Alternative Dispute Resolutions

Erin Brockovich (2002)

This movie is a portrayal of real life case which shows that a lawyer’s ability to
related and cooperate with their clients can effectively influence the latter’s decision.
Erin Brockovich, a legal clerk of a small law office, Marsy and Vititoe, went head to head
against the giant San Francisco-based Pacific Gas & Electric Co. or PGE’s for their
usage of chromium 6 which resulted to various health issues of 634 residents of
Hinkley, California.

Erin and lawyer Ed Marsy, immersed themselves into the situation of the
residents by going personally to the affected residents door to door, engaged in
personal conversations and a close relationship with the residents to obtain information
and stories to build their case. The counsel of PGE offered all the residents $20M
during settlement which triggered Erin to point that she wants the residents a peaceful
and healthy life for all the residents and not just a good compensation.

PGE requested that the case be submitted to a “test trial” or “binding arbitration”
which was agreed upon by Marsy and Brockovich. Bind arbitration is a form of dispute
resolution where the case is tried by a judge and without a jury which may lead to a
speedier disposition of the case. However, the decision to be rendered by the Judge
shall be final and the parties shall lose the right to appeal. This mode of dispute
resolution was the best option for the parties to end the dispute because if they resorted
to trial, it may be dragged to years by reason of appeal after appeal which is
unfavourable to the plaintiffs.

However, the consent of all the plaintiffs, not only of Brockovich’s and Marsy’s, is
required to submit the case to binding arbitration. Marsy conducted a meeting with the
residents to inform them of the benefits of resorting to binding arbitration. The residents
where half-hearted about the option but they were convinced by Ed Marsy by appealing
to their emotions and their situation instead of basing it on law.

Brockovich and Marsy empathized with the plaintiffs and tried to look at the
situation from the latter’s perspective which resulted to the consent of all 634 plaintiffs to
binding arbitration. In this movie, they have displayed empathy as a feature of
alternative dispute resolution. However, the movie did not portray the process of binding
arbitration and skipped to the Judge’s decision in favor of the plaintiffs.

Brockovich have said the line: “I may not have a law degree but I spent 18
months on this case and I know more about the plaintiffs than you ever will.” against a
lawyer of a partner firm. This scene points out that in dispute resolution, empathy,
communication, connection, and understanding are more important than legal
knowledge as they were the secret behind the victory of Erin and Marsby against the
corporate giant, PGE.