If you think you understand our judicial system watch Hot Coffee. This documentary debuted last night on HBO and it’s an eye opener. Everyone thinks they know about the woman who won millions from her frivolous lawsuit against McDonald’s after spilling the hot beverage on herself back in the early nineties but Hot Coffee gives us the other side of the story.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words and after seeing the photos of 79-year-old Stella Liebeck’s third degree burns, the lawsuit won’t seem so frivolous any more. Even the over two million dollars awarded in damages didn’t seem as excessive after one of the jurors explains that hundreds of people had already complained about this problem according to McDonald’s own records and they came up with the figure based on two days worth of coffee sales for the company.
Hot Coffee also spotlights a boy who suffered severe brain damage because of medical malpractice and received a large enough amount from a jury to cover his lifetime care. Unfortunately, because Nebraska has a state cap on damages, he was only able to collect part the award so now taxpayer-funded Medicaid will be picking up most the bill.
State Supreme Courts started ruling these caps unconstitutional so groups such as the U.S Chamber of Commerce began a campaign to put judges on the bench that were friendlier to their interests. Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz was one of their targets and even though he won re-election they were still able to ruin his career by getting false criminal charges filed against him.
The last segment introduced explains how a mandatory arbitration clause in the employment contract that Jamie Leigh Jones signed before working for a contractor of KBR/Halliburton prevented her from obtaining a jury trial against the co-workers who raped her in Iraq. If you’re looking for something to watch before Independence Day, Hot Coffee is an ideal choice because it shows how corporate interests have managed to chip away at American citizen’s rights over the last few decades without most of us even realizing what happened.