HBO Documentary “Hot Coffee” Reveals Truth About McDonald’s Case

In 1992 people around the world were introduced to Stella Liebeck, who was burned when she spilled McDonald’s coffee in her lap and subsequently sued the restaurant for her burns. The lawsuit brought more attention to those seeking tort reform, particularly after the jury awarded Ms. Liebeck $2.86 million. Along with propaganda from insurance companies, Associated Industries and others, this award added to the sentiment that civil lawsuits were out of control.

But Stella Liebeck’s real story has not been told, until now. HBO will premiere it’s documentary Hot Coffee Monday, June 27 at 9:00 pm EST. In the program, real facts, including the fact that McDonalds was selling coffee at a temperature it knew would cause burns and permanent scarring if it came in contact with human skin, that McDonald’s refused to reduce the temperature even though others had been permanently scarred before Ms. Liebeck and the fact that the jury award was ultimately reduced by the court. The idea that this was a frivolous lawsuit and the wrongdoing on McDonald’s part will be investigated.

The filmmakers have a website that includes a call for action to protect the civil justice system. Among other things, they encourage viewers to do the following:

  1. Host a viewing party. Have your friends over to watch and discuss the program. Suggestions for organizing the party including a list of talking points can be found here.

  2. Write your lawmakers. Congress is currently considering two bills: “Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare Act of 2011,″ which would unfairly give doctors, nursing home personnel, medical manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies and hospitals immunity from accountability, and “The Arbitration Fairness Act” which would protect against companies setting a mandatory arbitration limit in one-sided contracts. The first bill infringes on patient’s rights, the second protects consumer rights. Contact your state lawmakers as well and encourage them to oppose tort reform and damage caps.

  3. Spread the word to enlighten others.

  4. Learn more about the issues and stay informed.

Personal injury lawyers across America are encouraging those they know to watch this documentary and learn more. The call for tort reform is a concerning trend that could seriously damage victim’s rights if laws are passed.


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