Deviant Behavior Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Erin Brockovich & Corporate Ethics

Deviant Behavior

Eric Brockovich, a film released in 2000, is a dramatization of a true story of a woman who became a legal assistant through the sheer force of her personality -- and after discovering evidence that people were being poisoned by toxins from a Pacific Gas and Electricity (PG&E) plant -- nearly single-handedly -- successfully brings a lawsuit against the company ("IMDB," 2011). The film provides a verstehen, or filtered understanding, of the embittered contest between the injured citizen and a large corporation with deep pockets ("IMDB," 2011). This paper will first briefly summarize the story. An analysis of the position of the prosecuting legal team follows. And finally, discussion will center on corporate deviance according to Glasser's Choice Theory and the relation of Kohlberg's theory of morality.

The Story

The story takes place in 1993, when following the loss of a personal injury lawsuit, Erin Brockovich asks her attorney, Edward L. Masry, to help her find a job to compensate for the loss ("IMDB," 2011). The attorney hires Erin as a file clerk, and she earnestly tries to get a handle on the job:

Erin is at her desk, staring bewilderingly at the files from the box Ed gave her, which are now spread across her desktop. She sees Anna packing up her things to leave.


Anna? With this real estate stuff -- could you remind me, 'cause I'm a little confused about how exactly we do that. Why are there medical records and blood samples in real estate files? (Grant, 2000)

From this point, Erin begins the investigation (Grant, 2000). She curiously reads the medical files of Donna
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and Peter Jensen, then later asks Ed if she can investigate further (Grant, 2000). He is distracted and gives her permission without really realizing what he has agreed to (Grant, 2000). It seems that PG&E has offered to purchase the Jensen's house in Hinckley, California, so that is where, true to form, Erin drives next (Grant, 2000). As Erin digs into the particulars of the case, she becomes convinced that increasingly the facts are adding up (Grant, 2000). She discovers that PG&E has systematically covered up the fact that the water supply in the town of Hinkley has become contaminated by a toxic industrial component called hexavalent chromium (Grant, 2000). Many people are already seriously ill, several have died, and the health of the entire community is at stake (Grant, 2000). Erin finds evidence that PG&E is responsible for the illnesses of the town's inhabitants (Grant, 2000). Ed fires Erin for being gone for two weeks without telling anyone -- she has been investigating and working around the clock (Grant, 2000). When he gets the lab report Erin requested that details the toxin levels, he hires her back (Grant, 2000). Erin nags and bothers Ed until she convinces Ed until he agrees to mount a case against the energy company (Grant, 2000).


-- And what the hell do you know about any of this anyway? Something like this, Erin- it could take forever. They're a huge corporation. They could bury us in paperwork for the next fifteen years. I'm just a guy with a private firm.

She makes her move


-- who happens to know they poisoned people and lied about it. We can get these people. With a little effort, I really think we can nail their asses to the wall (Grant, 2000).

Through happenstance, Erin meets a man in…

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Corporate Deviance

The factor that drove the choice of deviance theory for this section of the analysis is that the crimes committed by PG&E were white collar crimes. No one in the corporation was experiencing threat to their basic needs -- this was not a crime of desperation driven by dire circumstances or a spontaneous reaction to an unanticipated context or even a crime of omission. The crimes committed by PG&E were planned and deliberated deceitful.

In view of this, a theory grounded in psychology rather than sociology, economics, or criminology seems most appropriated. William Glasser's choice theory is based on his 50-some years of practice as a counseling psychologist (Glasser, 2011). Choice Theory assumes that human behavior takes its form and direction from the satisfaction of five needs that are genetically driven, and are similar to those described by Abraham Maslow (Glasser, 2011). The needs are as follows: (1) Survival, which includes food, shelter, clothing, personal safety, and the like; (2) Belonging,

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