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Hot Coffee
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123 of 137 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
HOT COFFEE (dir. Susan Saladoff, 2011, 85 minutes) is an HBO documentary that is Oscar-worthy and should be bought/shown in every school, town council meeting ... I can't think of enough places. Never have I seen a documentary that taught me so much in so little time. And what I learned is just how badly the rights of American citizens have been damaged, how horribly corrupt our judicial and legislative branches have become.

This is a documentary about tort reform. You see, a "tort" is a "harm" or a "damage". If you are like nearly 100% of America, you'll be asking what that is. I will tell you without spoiling the documentary--you WILL want to see this for yourself. Presenting itself in a tightly organized, well developed set of four "exhibits", HOT COFFEE begins with a case I will describe herein--the others I will leave for the viewer to watch and learn. The "exhibits" consist of:

I. Public Relations Campaign
II. Caps On Damages
III. Judicial Elections
IV. Mandatory Arbitration

In "Exhibit I" we learn about the true story of the lady from Albuquerque, New Mexico, who burned herself with McDonald's coffee. Stella Liebeck was along for a drive with her nephew (she was a passenger and no, it was not her grandson as is stated by dum-dums all over America), and they stopped at McDonald's. Stella ordered coffee which was demonically hot (and a jury found there is no excuse for this, period). When she spilled it on her lap she suffered life-threatening 3rd degree burns. This was not helped by her age and the resulting thinness of her skin, especially in the areas the coffee spilled. She had no way of getting to the spilled coffee in time and certainly no relief in sight.

McDonalds was total in its lack of common sense providing SAFE cups and lids. Stella endured a lengthy stay in hospital, where she required surgery, skin grafts and therapy. It was a miracle she survived at all, according to physicians. Thinking McDonald's should pay for her $10,000 hospital treatment, she and family approached McD's. They got the raspberry, so they sued. Stella was awarded over $2 million, but she was left with a damages award of less than $200,000. She settled with McDonald's out of court for an undisclosed amount. The campaign against her "frivolous" lawsuit (a/k/a "junk" lawsuit) shocked all who knew about her sufferings.

Yet the "tort reformists", those who want us to be harmed and never have any apparatus of accountability to help us, well they jumped all over this case as the example of the epoch. Not knowing the horrors of the injuries suffered by this elderly lady, and not caring, the monsters that wield power began the campaign to take away our right to have our day in court. That, under any and all circumstances, is un-Constitutional.

This documentary will teach you all that and then tell you about the Chamber of Commerce. The COC is a private organization of high-octane superpower corporations, and one of the many things they do is rig judicial campaigns any way they can so the judges on the state supreme courts will rule in their favor when tort cases arise. (This, then, is the heart of what it means to say "tort reform".)

You will learn in this film that this is not the worst of it. Along with legislation state-by-state capping the damages a jury can award, the C.O.C. also succeeded in another devious device: mandatory arbitration. The mandatory binding arbitration clause in any contract says you (the contractee) cannot sue the contractor. Instead, you only get mandatory arbitration by an arbitration company, chosen by your contractor, and this is a secret, final-word hearing that will not be in your favor.

In other words, these companies rob you of even a chance of your "day in court" should that day ever arise. Mandatory arbitration plus caps on damages in tort cases fly in the face of all basic rights, as this film clearly explains. Often, when you purchase utilities or insurance, you may subsequently get a supplemental flyer--the type no one in their right mind ever reads--and the mandatory arbitration clause is included in there.

The remaining sections show us only a few exemplary cases: in the instance of caps on damages, in which a jury can award whatever they want (because you won't get that anyway), we learn of a family that can never fully meet the needs of their brain-damaged son. Why? Their damages award was automatically capped. The jury, as usual, didn't know that fact. "Caps relieve the wrongdoer," says one attorney.

In the case of rigged judicial elections, Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz, an anti-tort reform justice, was hounded and crucified over and over during his bid for re-election. He was hounded right out of the election, but as I recall he lost big time anyway, and there was suspicion about the entire thing. The powers wanted a pro-tort reform justice.

In the case of mandatory arbitration, we learn about a young lady who worked for Halliburton and went to Iraq. What happened to her there, and how she was denied justice for over four years, all because of the sneaky arbitration clause in her employment contract, will make your skin crawl.

GET THIS. Learn from it and do not forget the lessons you will learn. Because the only way to fix all this is to first undo the ignorance that reigns in this country. We must learn about these matters. Very likely, you have at least a dozen contracts with mandatory arbitration clauses in them, such as your phone account, credit cards, insurances. You have the right to sue someone who has harmed you. You have the right to your court time. You have the right "to get what you bargained for." As one attorney says, "When you win a case, you win it ... not only for yourself ... but also for [all] other people."

Stella Liebeck, the woman who nearly died from that McDonald's hot coffee, passed away at the age of 91 in 2004. There is still talk about her case, talk laced with disgust. So I make this review dedicated to her memory.
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38 of 42 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
I always consider myself somewhat of a jaded individual. Not much surprises me anymore when it comes to almost any topic especially as it relates to government and/or big business. I, like many I'm sure, remember the notorious case where a woman sued McDonalds after being scalded by their hot coffee. It became a national punchline and represented, to me, everything that was wrong with the contemporary legal system. Someone sued because their coffee was hot! How ridiculous! In hindsight, after viewing Susan Saladoff's incendiary and eye-opening documentary "Hot Coffee," I may have to admit that I wasn't in possession of all the facts. And that's just the way special interest groups wanted it! In four distinct sections, Saladoff's film takes on different cases (starting with the infamous Hot Coffee incident) that have led the justice system to favor corporate interests over that of the common citizen.

Section One is the infamous Hot Coffee case. Branded a frivolous lawsuit (although I no longer think so), this jury decision for the plaintive caused a national media firestorm. The idea of the case, not the facts, were publicized as a platform for tort reform (procedural limits on the ability to file claims).

Section Two addresses another aspect of tort reform--the capping on damages that may be awarded by juries. The example in this instance revolves around a Nebraska family who have suffered at the hands of blatant medical error. The couple was awarded a six million dollar judgement to cover a lifetime of care for a son who experienced brain damage and severe physical trauma and will, essentially, never grow-up mentally. Their state has a cap on damages and automatically reduced the judgement significantly.

Section Three documents the persecution of Mississippi justice Oliver Diaz. In a dramatic fashion, Diaz's seat was challenged by candidates with funding by big business who were strong on tort reform and corporate interests. In a harrowing turn of events, Diaz was implicated in numerous nefarious illegalities and fought for his life and freedom--not just a judgeship.

Section Four deals with the infamous Halliburton case where a young women alleged that the company put her in harm's way which led to a brutal physical assault. As the company had a mandatory arbitration clause in their employment contract, the alleged victim was subject to in-house investigation where, of course, Halliburton was always in control. The film showcases her fight to have the details of her case heard by a real court system.

I have tried not to be overtly political in any of this review. And whether or not you accept all of Saladoff's propositions at face value, there is certainly plenty to think about here. It is an amazingly effective and affecting documentary. I had a visceral and emotional response to this film--it made me upset, confused, disappointed, and angry. I talked about it for days afterwards and recommended it to many people. In my mind, this important film is one of the year's most provocative documentaries. KGHarris, 8/11.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
Essential information is revealed here within this powerful documentary.
Here is the detailed unveiling of corporate multi-million-dollar propaganda campaigns,
intentionally ment to confuse and brainwash Americans.

Photo's are shown here of the deep burns Stella Liebeck suffered in the McDonald's hot coffee incident.
She was 79 at the time, she required numerous skin graphs and nearly died.
But the industry twisted the case to make it the poster child for frivolous lawsuits.
Meanwhile McDonald's kept a low profile on the fact that they previously had,
between January 1983 to March 1992, over 700 burn cases.

Corporations have armed themselves with these tactics,
plus powerful unrelenting lobbing, and friends in high places.
They have extensively campaigned to affect jury's and senator's to set cap's on damage awards.
And in addition they have among other things,
actually managed to change a CRUCIAL part of our 200 year old constitution of the United States.
Thus they unbound themselves from prior limits,
and now can give unlimited donations to the politician's who will support their issues.
In other words, they control the add campaigns which ultimately sway which politicians American's vote for.
Opening this floodgate means corporations literally hold the future of most American's in their hands.

This documentary is a stunning and reveiling well segmented account of the battle over Tort reform,
and what IS happening to America.
Reveiled here are many devices and methods that are used.
Documented footage shows that the whole point of the Tort reform is to keep the public from accessing the courts.
All public, no matter if frivolous or honest.
Camera's follow individuals as they try to access the courts for restitution for the wrongs done to them.
That's when they find out the true meaning of Tort "reform" and what's happened to their rights.

U.S. maps are high-lighted to show which states have which caps on damages, there can be three kinds:
Punitive damages,
Non-economic,
Total caps.
Each category is explained.

Another way to block a person's right to sue,
is when you agree whether you know it or not to 'arritration'.
This common tactic is exposed and explained.
Information is given about the immensely large,
extremly powerful and very corrupt U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
This is not a government agency, it's an enormous mass of corporations.
They are exposed for who they are, how they sway elections, and what their intent is.

This is likely the most accurate, deeply informative documentary you'll ever have an opportunity to own.
Every household should watch this documentary, and understand it's impact.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on September 9, 2011
Format: DVD
They should be showing this film in civics classes. The film does a great job showing both how the civil justice system works and why it is important. Everyone needs to see this film.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on September 9, 2011
Format: DVD
I saw this film at the Waterfront Film Festival in Saugatuck, Michigan. Some friends chose the movie. I couldn't imagine why I'd be interested in frivolous lawsuits. But, I was immediately drawn into the story, and found each chapter compelling in its own way. If I ever need a lawyer, I would like to have this film-maker represent me! It was so stunning to realize that this is always a non-issue for the individual until it's too late. None of us has any stake in making sure that jury trials continue, until something terrible happens. The "hot coffee" story itself was sobering. And then the story about the medical malpractice "caps" which meant that TAXPAYERS had to pay bills instead of the people responsible for the damage brought me to tears. The chapter about corporations refusing employees' right to trial has now been resolved in the courts. The jury agreed with the corporation on this one, proving that juries are not nearly as anti-business as the tort reformers would have you believe. The judicial contests and corruption were beyond belief. After the movie, the film-maker answered some questions. The first one was "This movie is very one-sided..." She said, "Yes, I am an advocate for the jury system. The other side has dominated the communications on this issue. I'm trying to balance it out a little." Since watching this movie, I've become aware of how little I knew/know about these issues. I think it is a "must-see" documentary!
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on September 9, 2011
Format: DVD
I saw this on HBO and will be buying a copy when available. This is a must see documentary for all Americans who want this country to remain true to its promise. I've known most of the true story of Stella Lieback for years -- but I had never seen the photos of her injuries. After hearing the whole story and seeing the cruel way she was treated -- you realize that a campaign of distortion had to be behind it. The first time I saw Hot Coffee I was mad. The second time I was very sad. What the Chamber of Commerce, business interests, and Karl Rove have done to civil justice in our country is shameful and to the people they have hurt, it is horrifying. I knew about caps on damages in some states, but I didn't realize how far it had gone. Caps on damages in medical malpractice cases leave many people who have been severely injured no where to turn. The worst part of all of this is that so many Americans have bought into the idea of "jackpot" justice. What injured people want is accountability, that doesn't mean someone to blame, that means holding people responsible when they harm someone.

I agree with the reviewer that this movie should be shown in all schools -- maybe as part of the civics curriculum? do they even teach that anymore?
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on December 12, 2011
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
"HOT COFFEE" - THE MOVIE, is HOT ! This documentary blows the socks off the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its clients, like Big Tobacco and Big Pharma, who for almost two decades have laughed at the little old lady who was so horribly burned by McDonald's scalding-hot coffee (190-degrees), and the court and jury in Albuquerque, New Mexico, who awarded damages to her (Mrs. Stella Liebeck).

"HOT COFFEE" is a documentary -- meaning it is a presentation of the actual, true facts that the jury in that case heard and analyzed in a court of law.

The award of that jury was politicized by the US Chamber of Commerce for one reason: to engage in jury-tampering on a national basis, by convincing American citizens who form the various jury pools in counties througout the land that corporations like McDonalds should not be held legally accountable for their negligent mistakes -- even if the wrongdoing kills someone like Ms. Liebeck (who ultimately did pass away).

Anyone who has heard about that "little old lady who sued McDonalds for spilling coffee on herself" will be shocked when he or she sees "HOT COFFEE" and learns the truth. The New Mexico jury was absolutely correct in awarding damages against McDonalds -- which had previously injured more than eight hundred (800) people who were also scalded, before Stella Liebeck.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on July 20, 2011
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
The movie was excellent and the other reviewers have done an excellent job of describing the movie. I just wish more time was spent on the Supreme Court's Citizen's United decision which essentially decided that corporate funding cannot be limited. That has such far reaching consequences for our country, way beyond tort reform. Our frustrations with big oil, big healthcare and the way Wall Street walks away unscathed after inflicting the worst economic disaster upon us since the Great Depression can be traced to the power of corporate lobbying.
While we in America are quick to recognize corruption in other countries, are blind to our own corrupt practices--which have sadly been institutionalized over time. Hot Coffee shows how insidious the process has been. This is a long overdue wake up call to America.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on September 9, 2011
Format: DVD
You must see this film. I think most people feel that one news outlet or the other will get the real story out but when I saw this film I realized that there were some VERY significant facts around this famous case that I had no recollection of ever seeing in the news. Facts that would completely change your feelings about this particular case really appear to have been ignored by all media outlets. Why? See this film.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on July 11, 2011
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
This is a real shocker of a movie. It sets the record straight on how corporations have been using manipulative public relation tactics for pure corporate greed. Shamefully republicans have bought into these deceitful methods. Watch this movie and you'll learn why the Bible states, "the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil." If you consider yourself a Christian (as I am) watch this movie and educate yourself to the true evil on earth -- corporations. And the next time you go to vote, cast it for someone who cares about PEOPLE not soul-less corporations.
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