Before Tom Girardi’s fall from grace, he was a celebrated lawyer supposedly fighting for the vulnerable and victimized. Part of this hero clout came from his work in the historic “Erin Brockovich case.” He stepped in to help Ed Masry and his assistant Erin Brockovich take on Pacific Gas and Electric Company in 1993 for contaminating the groundwater of Hinkley, California. The case was settled in 1996 for $333 million, a record-setting amount.
Although, obviously, Erin Brockovich used her real name in the 2000 movie about the case, and her boss Ed Masry also used his, Tom Girardi got a different name for the feature film. He was portrayed by Peter Coyote and the character based on him was named Kurt Potter. Even though he wasn’t directly named in the film, Tom Girardi told Attorney at Law Magazine that he was there on set for every single day of shooting.
“Peter Coyote played me,” Tom Girarid told Attorney at Law Magazine in 2015. “I was on the set every day and it was a true story. The thing that was good about it was that it did bring up a subject that nobody really gave any thought to before that time and obviously to see Julia Roberts five days a week wasn’t too bad either.”
“That particular case revolutionized people’s thinking about all the toxic things they are exposed to,” he said about the affect the case has made on public consciousness. “Before that, nobody really gave a hoot or even realized there was any issue whatsoever with chemicals in the water or in the air. Then all of a sudden, people started to understand it and that’s had far-reaching effects clear up through today.”
When Ed Masry passed away in 2005, he was one of Tom’s many creditors. According to Law.com, Tom Girardi reportedly still owes the Ed Masry estate money. Erin Brockovich was paid her share for working on the case in the 90s, and still lives in the house she bought with the $2.5 million bonus.