After winning $1B in settlements, as they claim, you'd assume the law firm that Erin Brockovitch was based on would be solvent. Wrong! Masry & Vititoe filed for bankruptcy after being sued by the estate of the dead namesake partner.
The estate of Edward L. Masry, the lawyer Erin Brockovitch clerked for and played Girl Friday to (resulting in the largest single class settlement in American history, against Pacific Gas & Electric), sued Masry's former place of employment into Chapter 11.
Masry & Vititoe—sans Masry, who died in 2005—claim to have spent over $3M defending themselves against charges from Masry's estate, stemming from a decision that awarded control of a trust to Masry's kids, away from his wife. The trust held interests in the firm. Also, Masry kinda promised some people some money that they never got, and now that he's dead, they're coming out of the woodwork.
"Not only did a number of litigants come forward alleging that Mr. Masry had promised them certain assets and cash from the firm, additionally, his own estate and heirs instituted claims which have caused the firm to spend its resources, in time and staff, defending such claims," the firm said in an Aug. 24 motion seeking cash collateral in order to keep operating.
In the saga of Erin Brockovitch, the namesake single mother of three starts uncovering facts about Pacific Gas & Electric. She sniffs around with Masry (played by Albert Finney) some more, finds out PG&E are poisoning people. Two acts and a romantic subplot with Aaron Eckhart later, Masry & Vititoe win said $333M settlement. Since the 1996 PG&E suit, Vititoe's done pretty well in the field of "stick it to the man" law, but the cost of their suits weighed them down. Right now, they're claiming monthly operating expenses of $670,000. $8M in yearly overhead might hurt if there's none of the Man's Money coming through the pipeline. Council for the firm claim that they're gonna be fine, and that Vititoe's clients won't be affected. That's probably not what their creditors think.
Lesson: lawsuits beget lawsuits?
Brockovitch, meanwhile: doing fine. She opened up her own consulting shop to help investigate cases like the PG&E one that made her famous. She's also got a sass-tastic website.
Julia Roberts is filming Eat, Pray, Love, Albert Finney was great in Big Fish, and Brockovitch director Steven Soderbergh's going crazy filming porn stars and hanging out with Benicio Del Toro in the Bolivian jungle.
Happy endings, for all, we guess, except for Masry's namesake firm. Maybe if they just went balls out in shilling the fact that they were, you know, the legal eagles from Erin Brockovitch, they'd be doing better. Or they could call in a favor to Soderbergh? Either way, this commercial, wow. Clearly, none of that $8M yearly overhead went to making it. Shit, the estate of Uta Hagen could sue them for grievances against the dramatic arts, while everyone else is at it.