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Hot Coffee

4.7 out of 5 stars 83 customer reviews

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(Nov 01, 2011)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Product Description

Everyone knows the case of the woman who sued McDonald s over spilled coffee. Or do they? More than 15 years after making international news, the case continues to be cited as an example of citizens who use frivolous lawsuits to take unfair advantage of the American legal system. But is that an accurate portrayal of the facts?

An eye-opening documentary with jaw-dropping revelations, HOT COFFEE exposes how corporations spend millions on propaganda campaigns to distort Americans' view of lawsuits forever changing the civil justice system. By examining the impact of tort reform on the lives of ordinary citizens, the film shows how Americans give up their Constitutional rights in all sorts of ways without knowing it for example, by voting for caps on damages or signing away your rights in contracts. Through interviews with politicians, judges, lawyers and ordinary citizens, first-time filmmaker and former public-interest lawyer Susan Saladoff delves into the facts of four cases to tear apart the conventional wisdom about jackpot justice.

Special Features

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  • Interview with the Director
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  • Trailer

Many people recall the infamous 1994 episode in which an elderly woman named Stella Liebeck spilled a cup of scalding hot McDonald's coffee in her lap, resulting in major burns and a lawsuit against the restaurant chain that earned her nearly $2.6 million in damages (many fewer remember that the amount was very substantially reduced in a subsequent judgment). Filmmaker Susan Saladoff obviously remembers--the incident provided the title for and is featured prominently in Hot Coffee, her documentary about the nature of civil suits. But Saladoff, who is herself a lawyer, has an unexpected take on the matter. The Liebeck case, the film suggests, was in fact a public relations coup for McDonald's, who helped turn it into Exhibit A in the campaign to limit so-called "frivolous" lawsuits, also known as "tort reform." But while those who advocated tort reform contended that it would be good for everyone, including taxpayers, the principal beneficiary was big business (President George W. Bush's crusade to limit medical malpractice suits is represented here as a gift to giant insurance companies), while genuine victims, including Liebeck, were denied justice (when several man-on-the-street interviewees are shown graphic photos of her severe injuries, they quickly change their tunes about the frivolity of her suit). Other serious charges are leveled in the course of the film, which argues that caps on the amount of damages awarded by juries in civil suits have been disastrous for deserving plaintiffs; that the big business-loving U.S. Chamber of Commerce has helped defeat any number of state supreme court justices whose rulings have favored plaintiffs over corporate defendants; and that the insistence by many companies that employees sign contracts forbidding them to sue their employers, forcing them to instead submit to mandatory arbitration, has put their fates into the hands of people hired solely to protect the company's interests (the tale of one young woman who worked for Halliburton in Iraq is especially disturbing). It's unlikely that Hot Coffee will be garnering many positive reviews on Fox News, as the film's point of view is decidedly pro-consumer/anti-corporation. Still, regardless of one's political leanings, it will be hard not to be shocked by what it says about our legal system. --Sam Graham

Product Details

  • Actors: Joan Claybrook, Oliver Diaz, Joanne Doroshow
  • Directors: Susan Saladoff
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Docurama
  • DVD Release Date: November 1, 2011
  • Run Time: 89 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00595W3MO
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #36,467 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Hui Shen ben Israel TOP 1000 REVIEWER on July 2, 2011
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.
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Format: DVD Verified 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.
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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.
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