Warning: Hot Coffee may change the way you view our justice system
We got a special preview of Susan Saladoff’s excellent new documentary, Hot Coffee, Monday at Public Citizen. The movie opens with a look at the case of Stella Liebeck, who famously sued McDonald’s after she was seriously burned by a 49-cent cup of the fast food chain’s hot coffee. Of course, Liebeck, who was 79 at the time of the accident, became the butt of jokes and her case became a cause célèbre as exhibit #1 of a justice system overrun with frivolous lawsuits.
If a woman could sue McDonald’s for spilling coffee on herself, was there any limit to what the courts might be forced to rule upon? But as Saladoff shows, the punchlines and misinformation put forward by so-called tort “reformers” didn’t begin to tell the story of Stella Liebeck. The facts are that McDonald’s brewed its coffee at 180 degrees, a temperature hot enough to seriously burn anyone who might spill it on themselves. In fact, Liebeck’s injuries were so serious she required skin grafts. And she wasn’t the first person burned by McDonald’s hot coffee — at least 700 others had reported injuries after mishaps with the chain’s coffee.
And yet, it was McDonald’s that was often cast as the victim in this case. Incredible.
But Liebeck’s story and how it was used as a rallying cry for tort reform is only a small piece of Saladoff’s film, which is in post-production. She also examines how liability caps on lawsuits can protect the guilty at the expense of their victims and what happens when the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spends millions of dollars to get business-friendly judges elected. She also catches us up with Jamie Leigh Jones, the Haliburton contractor who was drugged and gang-raped in Baghdad by coworkers but was prevented from suing her employer because of a mandatory arbitration clause inserted into her employment contract.
Hot Coffee is much more than a movie about a single, grossly misunderstood lawsuit. It is an exposé of one of the biggest threats to our democracy today — the corporate assault on our system of justice.
August 31, 2010 @ 12:47 pm
Same ol thing. Corporations have more rights than people
August 31, 2010 @ 2:03 pm
I really look forward to seeing this. Please keep us updated on when it will be released to the general public!!!
Susan Saladoff’s “Hot Coffee”: Stella Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants
August 31, 2010 @ 7:20 pm
[…] after she was severely burned by a cup of the fast food chain’s hot coffee. As Public Citizen points out “Liebeck, who was 79 at the time of the accident, became the butt of jokes as her […]
September 1, 2010 @ 6:27 am
By no means am I coming to the defense of that junk food giant, McDonald’s regarding this story, but I would like to address one aspect of this story, and that is, why was McDonald’s setting the temperature of it’s coffee makers at 180 degrees in the first place.
Well, if you’ve ever dealt with seniors and their coffee, anything less than a rolling boil seems to be what they prefer. I haven’t a clue why this is, but that seems to be the case. To make a pun out of this: Desired Coffee Temperature (DCT) seems to be directly proportional to age.
McDonlad’s, after hearing years of complaints from seniors about cold coffee (seniors also seem to be the sector of society that will do the most complaining about these kinds of things), had no recourse but to continually raise the temperature of their coffee makers until they reached a temperature that could remove paint. McDonald’s certainly does not want to upset that sector of society that gives them great business. Walk into any McDonald’s during the early morning on any day of the week to see what I mean.
I might add that I am a senior myself, so relax.
September 1, 2010 @ 3:00 pm
I’m a “senior” by AARP’s definition and I do like my coffee hot, but not scalding hot. I find the temp of a cup at some coffee places is just fine, (cooler than that which burned the victim in this example). If the cup’s too hot to hold, how could anyone want that?
Good video, I also hope the documentary shows where we live. Some people do not want to hear that they were misled about tort reform or the hot coffee case. I guess until something happens to them, they will not listen. Wish I knew what drug the corp’s were using to make people such willing sheep; must come from the psychology dept. of professional spin houses.
September 5, 2010 @ 6:12 am
Why is it a company’s responsibility? We are responsible for whatever we do. Stop enabling. In all instances, we make our lives, we choose, we do. And, we cannot blame anyone or anything else. Was that the first time she bought coffee at McD’s? What would she have done if it was cold? She spilled the coffee. Do people drink 180 degree coffee? Obviously many others did tat day and before. In this case, who is really wrong. Well, the jury decided.
In the end, just make those who bring civil lawsuits and loose, pay the court fees of both sides… then let’s see how many frivolous suits we have clogging our courts, that’s the law in the UK, and it seems to work well.
September 13, 2010 @ 2:40 am
J, your a dumbfuck, if corporation had more rights than people, then why did that “people” or the lady win 3 mil over the mcdonolds corporation. I don’t necisarily disagree with you, just a horrible example to say something like that, you are just retarded and need to not post things anymore, it really pisses me off.
Documentary “Hot Coffee”: Re McDonalds Lawsuit, Tort Reform and Our justice system « WI Employee Rights Lawyers, Wages, Sexual Harassment, H1B
September 20, 2010 @ 10:06 am
[…] Hot Coffee TrailerThis movie requires Adobe Flash for playback. If a woman could sue McDonald’s for spilling coffee on herself, was there any limit to what the courts might be forced to rule upon? But as [this documentary] shows, the punchlines and misinformation put forward by so-called tort “reformers” didn’t begin to tell the story of Stella Liebeck. The facts are that McDonald’s brewed its coffee at 180 degrees, a temperature hot enough to seriously burn anyone who might spill it on themselves. In fact, Liebeck’s injuries were so serious she required skin grafts. And she wasn’t the first person burned by McDonald’s hot coffee — at least 700 others had reported injuries after mishaps with the chain’s coffee. via citizenvox.org […]