I’ll keep this post short, writing little more than my insistence that if you watch no other documentary this year, you make the time to watch Hot Coffee. The film debuts on HBO, Monday, June 27, 2011, at 9 pm EDT. It will play on the pay-cable channel through the summer, and it will also soon be available on DVD.
In the film, long-time personal injury attorney-turned-director Susan Saladoff details the difficulty victims of corporate negligence and doctors’ mistakes face when seeking justice for injuries, disabilities and mental suffering. A commentator quoted at the end of the trailer for Hot Coffee sums up the experience of every personal injury plaintiff this way: "Going to court to gain justice is heroic."
Hot Coffee takes its names from the early 1990s case Liebeck v. McDonald’s in which an 81-year-old woman received an award of nearly $3 million after being severely burned by spilled coffee she had purchased from one of the fast food giant’s restaurants. Often cited by proponents of so-called "tort reform" as the ultimate example of a frivolous lawsuit that makes it expensive and difficult for corporations to innovate and operate at a profit, the McDonald’s coffee lawsuit actually illustrates how people harmed by defective products — in that case, overheated liquid in an overfilled and poorly designed cup — must have recourse to civil courts to ensure they can physically and financially recover from their injuries.
I’ve written elsewhere about the injustice and hypocrisy inherent in calls for tort reform. Making it exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to sue companies, health care professionals or individuals for causing injuries or wrongful deaths is unconstitutional, if nothing else. But mine is just one voice from a fairly small Virginia and Carolina personal injury law firm. I hope that Hot Coffee will lead millions more to see the ugly truth behind tort reform movements.
About the Editors: The Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.