Hot Coffee, The Movie is a documentary entry in this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Hot Coffee is the story everyone thinks they know about crazy “runaway” juries awarding huge sums of money when people do stupid things and hurt themselves.
Well, that version of events was bought and paid for by a massive public relations campaign just like the one the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is currently running to try to get the public to buy into “reforming” our justice system. The problem is, this version of events, like all great lies, is founded on only a grain of truth. Stella Lieback, a 79 year old woman who, in 1992, spilled a cup of McDonald’s scalding coffee in her lap causing severe third degree burns. What isn’t usually talked about is the years of surgery and medical treatment Stella endured. What’s never discussed is the fact that the size of the jury’s verdict reflected their outrage when they learned that McDonald’s had been sued numerous times over severe burns caused by their coffee and that despite the known danger, they continued to serve their coffee at a temperature that could not be consumed by most individuals because by keeping it scalding hot, they could sell it longer without having to brew fresh pots of coffee. The temperature of the coffee was mandated by McDonald’s corporate offices in order to save a few cents.
Hot Coffee is an important piece of documentary film, telling not only the story of Stella Lieback, but others who have been destroyed by the public relations campaigns to limit your access to the Courts.
Today the 112th Congress was sworn in and the new Republican Majority ceremoniously conducted a reading of the U.S. Constitution. Hopefully, they listened when they read the 7th Amendment right to trial by jury. If they hold the Constitution as dear as they claim they do, then they will oppose any attempts to limit your right to trial by jury, whether it is imposing caps on lawsuits or punitive damages. A jury of your neighbors will know what is right. That’s what our founding father’s wrote into the Constitution.