Everyone has heard about “The McDonald’s Hot Coffee Law Suit”. This was the 1994 product liability lawsuit that became a mantra in the debate in the U.S. over tort reform. The way this case has been portrayed has given the civil justice system a bad image. You have heard it as the elderly lady that spilled coffee and became rich. Many people are misinformed and are not aware of the real facts of this case, unless you know a personal injury attorney.
On February 27, 1992, seventy-nine year old Stella Liebeck was in the passenger seat of her grandson’s Ford Probe when she ordered a 49 cent cup of coffee at the drive through of a McDonald’s in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Shortly thereafter, she spilled the coffee in her lap and sustained a series of very serious painful burns. A jury awarded $160,000 to cover medical expenses and compensatory damages in addition to $2.7 million in punitive damages to Liebeck. But her story has been grossly manipulated over the years to make her appear as someone who just wanted to get rich from her own mistake. Well now you can get the real story and see how the American public has had the wool passed over their eyes by the insurance industry.
I watched the HBO documentary film titled “Hot Coffee” last night. It actually told the truth and pulled back the veil of misconceptions of this case. The film shows the American public the true value of our civil justice system and how justice was served for Mrs. Liebeck. The film touches on such common misunderstandings about this case
- Ms. Liebeck’s burn severity (look at the burns and your stomach will turn)
- Her supposed desire to get rich from her injury (she originally only asked McDonald’s to pay her medical expenses and lost wages, they didn’t).
- The fact that she was a passenger
- That McDonald’s required coffee to be served at 180º – 190º.
The film also discussed in great dept how Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants is often used and misused to describe a frivolous lawsuit and referenced in conjunction with tort reform efforts. McDonald’s, the insurance industry, and the United States Chamber of Commerce (which isn’t a government agency, its members consists of large corporations) have distorted the facts of Liebeck’s case to the point that what the public believes is nowhere close to the actual facts.
Watch the film and like many Americans your opinions will change. The truth about the case has opened up American minds Justice should prevail and no one should take our rights away. Many stated that the claim was “a meaningful and worthy lawsuit” after watching this documentary.
When you watch this film you will hear from jurors on the case and you will know why the jury gave the verdict they did. You will know why the American Justice system is the best and greatest system in the world! Justice prevails and did here. Our jury trial system is one of America’s most valuable assets. It allows anyone to go to court and be on a level playing field with even the biggest corporations. It takes courage to go to court and seek justice. I am honored to be a part of this great system in this great country.