A new documentary film entitled Hot Coffee tells the true story of the McDonald's Hot Coffee case. The film also tells the story of how the civil justice system has been under heavy attack by big business for over 25 years. They launched a public relations campaign starting in the mid-80's and continuing over the last two decades to convince the public that we have out of control juries, too many frivolous lawsuits and a civil justice system that needs reforming. They have used anecdotes, half-truths and sometimes out and out lies in their efforts, for one purpose - to put limits on people's access to the court system, the one and only place where an average citizen can go toe to toe with those with money and power and still have a shot at justice.
The McDonald's Hot Coffee case serves as a springboard into understanding our civil justice system. Hot Coffee tells the story of a child born with cerebral palsy because of medical malpractice at birth and how a state-mandated cap on damages has affected his family, as well as how dramatically different his life is compared to that of his identical twin brother. Hot Coffee also explores the story of a former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice and how big business interests spent millions of dollars advertising against him and found a way to have him criminally prosecuted on false charges. Finally, Hot Coffee shows the success of the tort reform movement and its impact on average people in the form of mandatory arbitration contracts. The film introduces a young woman who accused her co-workers of rape when working in Iraq for KBR/Halliburton. The woman signed an employment contract with a mandatory arbitration clause which took away her right to a jury trial.
You can watch a trailer of the movie at hotcoffeethemovie.com. If you have HBO, you can watch it there. If you log on to hotcoffeethemovie.com, you can learn how to have a "House Party" and screen the movie to friends and neighbors. I plan on showing Hot Coffee to many of my clients, especially the ones who tell me why their case isn't the McDonald's Hot Coffee case. Lastly, when someone wants to tell you about the McDonald's Hot Coffee case, you should tell them the truth about the case. You can watch Hot Coffee to learn the facts. You can also go to the Hot Coffee website and click on FAQ to learn the truth about the McDonald's Hot Coffee case.
Unfortunately, we will never have the millions to spend on a public relations campaign that competes with big business, the pharmaceutical industry or the insurance industry. However, we can tell the truth about the civil justice system and inform the public one by one. I see it as just another obligation that we have as trial lawyers.