On February 27, 1992, 79-year-old Stella Liebeck ordered a cup of coffee from a drive-through window at a McDonalds restaurant in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Mrs. Liebeck was seated in the passenger seat of a parked car and, as she tried to add cream and sugar to her coffee, spilled the entire cup of scalding hot coffee on her lap. She suffered severe third-degree burns, years of expensive medical treatment, and a lawsuit that soon had the whole country talking. In Hot Coffee, Stella Liebeck's personal legal battle over a spilled cup of coffee serves as a springboard into understanding our civil justice system.
Colin was born with cerebral palsy because of medical malpractice at birth. He received a $5.65 million award at trial to cover his medical expenses, but because of a Nebraska state-mandated cap on damages he could only collect $1.25 million, an amount that will not cover a lifetime of care. The film shows how the lawsuit cap has affected Colin and his family, as well as how dramatically different his life is compared to that of his identical twin brother, Connor.
When state Supreme Courts were holding caps on damages unconstitutional, Karl Rove and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce masterminded a national campaign to unseat judges who stood in the way of tort reform. Hot Coffee explores the story of former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz, whose life was fictionalized in John Grisham's book, The Appeal. When big business interests couldn't beat Justice Diaz in his re-election to the Mississippi Supreme Court, despite millions of dollars spent on advertising against him, they found a way to have him criminally prosecuted on false charges, tainting his reputation and causing him political and personal hardship for years to come.
Jamie Leigh Jones
Hot Coffee also shows the success of the tort reform movement and its impact on average people in the form of mandatory arbitration contracts. The film introduces Jamie Leigh Jones, who accused her co-workers of rape when working in Iraq as a private contractor for KBR/Halliburton. When criminal charges could not be filed, she sought to hold Halliburton accountable for their misconduct, but a forced arbitration clause buried in her employment agreement meant she lost her right to a jury trial. While documenting Jamie's story, the film follows Senator Al Franken's first bill in the U.S. Senate, in which he successfully prohibited mandatory arbitration clauses for sexual assault in government contracts.
Also Featured in the Film
Ralph D. Cook
Ernest “Sonny” Hornsby
Kenneth R. Wagner
Peter Whitted, MD, JD
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