New Movie Called, “Hot Coffee,” Deserves A Warning Of Its Own

A plaintiff-lawyer-turned-moviemaker has produced a film about the infamous lawsuit Stella Liebeck filed against McDonald’s nearly 20 years ago, and she definitely won’t be asking McDonald’s to be a sponsor if the movie ever hits theaters.  It’s been screened at the Sundance Film Festival, but it’s unclear if the movie will ever make it to screens anywhere else.  That would be a good thing.

I am reluctant to give “Hot Coffee” any free publicity, but I also feel a responsibility to provide information and insight that can shed light on the real objective of those involved in producing this movie.

Liebeck, you might recall, was the Arizona woman who spilled hot coffee on herself in her nephew’s car after purchasing it at a McDonald’s drive through window.  She never alleged that McDonald’s negligently spilled the coffee on her or even that McDonald’s neglected to put the cap on the cup properly.  She did admit that she spilled the coffee on herself.

My point is, without rehashing the entire lawsuit and all of the inconvenient truths that personal injury lawyers usually fail to mention, that Liebeck was attempting to hold McDonald’s liable for her own actions despite the obvious risks involved.  Most of us across America have always viewed this as an issue of personal responsibility.  The maker of this film, however, wants to use the lawsuit as a way to rally Americans to support the political agenda of personal injury trial lawyers.

Visitors to the movie’s website are urged not only to watch the movie, but to “Take Action.”  Specifically, the website suggests that Americans should “Oppose your state’s laws on caps on damages,” and… “Read your contracts and tell Congress to support legislation to limit the use of mandatory arbitration.”

Hmmm.  That sounds a lot like the spiel I hear when I debate contingency fee personal injury lawyers on the radio.

The website also offers a list of resources including the usual suspects like Public Citizen and other groups commonly associated with the lawsuit-loving plaintiffs’ bar.  It even offers a link to a book the plaintiffs’ bar likes to promote.

It’s obvious to me that the producers of this movie have one goal: to convince Americans that the personal injury lawyers who have made America the most lawsuit-happy nation on earth are really the “good guys,” and that America needs even more lawsuits like the one filed by Liebeck.  That notion leaves a worse taste in my mouth than a bad cup of coffee.

Last year on this blog, I noted that Starbucks had been sued in a similar case, and I provided a link to a website containing attorney Ted Frank’s excellent explanation of why Liebeck’s lawsuit was, in fact, ludicrous.  To see that post and the link to Frank’s comments, click here.

You can also find an illuminating review of this movie as well as insightful information about the moviemaker’s lawsuit-promoting background here.

At the end of the day, two questions remain:  Have major restaurant chains stopped serving coffee at the temperature that McDonald’s served its coffee when it was sued by Liebeck?  And, is American better off because of Stella Liebeck’s lawsuit?  The answer to both of those questions is “No!”

2 thoughts on “New Movie Called, “Hot Coffee,” Deserves A Warning Of Its Own

  1. Let’s be fair. You are a mouthpiece for the corporate interests who are spending millions to avoid being held accountable for their actions.

    Let’s be fair. You had not even seen Hot Coffee when you wrote this. Who saw it for you? Who told you what to write? How much do they pay you to be thier puppet?

    Let’s be fair. Why does personal responsibility only run one way, to the victim of a dangerous product or practice? Why isn’ t there something called corporate responsibility? ooops…there is….and it is decided by juries across America…at least for now unless we out you and your corporate masters for who you really are and what you are really doing.

    Let’s be fair. Print this to balance out your extreme views.

    Lets be fair? I will tell you what….let me pour some boiling water between your legs…but first I will tell you that it is no big deal….it is not hot enough to cause third degree burns within 3-5 seconds…and you have to believe me…..ok?

  2. Let’s be fair, Mike, if McDonald’s had poured some boiling water on Mrs. Liebeck like you suggest doing to me, this would have been an entirely different story. She spilled it on herself, and personal injury lawyers like to ignore that fact in the hope of “hitting it big” in the lawsuit lottery. Since you have changed the facts of the scenario to make your point, I assume you secretly know you are wrong.

    You may want to change the facts and divert attention from the facts by calling names, but you can’t change the fact that wrong is still wrong and that people need to take responsibility for their own actions when they are sold a safe product. Americans know that, but they generally don’t know how much they’re paying for all of the lawsuit abuse in America, and that’s something I’m working to change.

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