Don’t miss “Hot Coffee!”
This weekend I got to see my last movie at the Seattle International Film Festival. It was “Hot Coffee,” a documentary by Susan Saladoff. It made me incredibly proud to be in this profession and to work with some of the best trial lawyers in the country.
The movie is an absolute must-see. Period. Full stop. When the DVD comes out (later this summer), run, don’t walk to buy it. Better yet, you can see it if you have HBO later this month. It is not a dry, boring documentary: Al Franken and Paul Grisham keep things lively.
Although I work for a plaintiffs law firm, even I had misconceptions about the infamous “hot coffee” lawsuit against McDonalds. This documentary, however, is not just about opening everyone’s eyes to the jaw dropping injuries that Stella Liebeck, the then 79-year old woman sustained from spilling some scalding hot coffee on herself. It reveals how McDonalds had previously received 700 complaints about the ridiculously hot coffee.
Moreover, the film shows how some corporations have spent many hundreds of million dollars on distorting the truth about tort claims — from “tort reform” to caps on damages. Trial lawyers are conveniently pegged as the villains, while insurance companies are portrayed as the victims: a comedy and utter tragedy at the same time.
A doctor specializing in burn injuries explains in “Hot Coffee,” that the holding temperature for coffee was so hot that at best, if the coffee touched one’s skin for a few seconds, one would suffer 3rd degree burns. Regardless, McDonalds chose to ignore the obvious threat to its customers’ safety until brave Ms. Liebeck attempted to hold them accountable.
The film also features a couple of other poignant stories: One, about an ex-Halliburton worker who was brutally raped by her coworkers in Iraq; but denied the ability to sue her employer/employees thanks to a mandatory arbitration clause. The other story is a needlessly tragic situation, where one twin boy was brain damaged in utero, because of a negligent doctor. That family was essentially robbed of the jury verdict due to the state’s cap on damages.
Buy this DVD for all of your friends, family, neighbors, etc., so that they learn how many corporations are attempting to dismantle the civil justice system.