Hot Coffee Movie Observations & Reviews

Hot Coffee Movie Observations

HOT COFFEE is a very informative HBO documentary film directed by SUSAN SALADOFF. The documentary is based on Tort Reforms and issues related to both economic and legal environment of the United States.

hotcoffee movie review

Hot Coffee Movie Review

The documentary majorly presents the truths from the side which were adversely affected by the tort reforms. This documentary majorly covers four cases and their consequences to the laws in America.

Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants

Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants, also known as the McDonald’s coffee case and the hot coffee lawsuit, was a 1994 product liability lawsuit that became a flashpoint in the debate in the United States over tort reform. A New Mexico civil jury awarded $2.86 million to plaintiff Stella Liebeck, a 79-year-old woman who suffered third-degree burns in her pelvic region when she accidentally spilled hot coffee in her lap after purchasing it from a McDonald’s restaurant. Liebeck was hospitalized for eight days while she underwent skin grafting, followed by two years of medical treatment.

Hot Coffee Movie Observation

Hot Coffee Movie Observation

Liebeck’s attorneys argued that, at 180–190 °F (82–88 °C), McDonald’s coffee was defective, claiming it was too hot and more likely to cause serious injury than coffee served at any other establishment. McDonald’s had refused several prior opportunities to settle for less than what the jury ultimately awarded. The jury damages included $160,000 to cover medical expenses and compensatory damages and $2.7 million in punitive damages. The trial judge reduced the final verdict to $640,000, and the parties settled for a confidential amount before an appeal was decided.

The case was said by some to be an example of frivolous litigation;ABC News called the case “the poster child of excessive lawsuits”, while the legal scholar Jonathan Turley argued that the claim was “a meaningful and worthy lawsuit”

Tort reforms in america presented these questions:

The Related Question: Is limiting peoples right to sue, the right thing to do?

Positive Aspects:

  • This might put a stop to the frivolous law suits.
  • This may solve the problem of delayed justice by reducing the number of law suits.
  • This can provide better business opportunities for the corporate sector.
  • It will bring smooth and stable run to the economy.

Negative Aspects:

  • This would be very unfair to some who have been harmed.
  • Would it have been justice if Mrs. Liebeck had not been granted the right to sue in her condition?

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Gourley v. Neb. Methodist Health Sys. facts 

Jamie Leigh Jones v. Halliburton Co.

Jamie Leigh Jones v. Halliburton Co.

During her pregnancy, Lisa received prenatal care from Knolla, an obstetrician and gynecologist employed with the OB/GYN Group.   On November 15, 1993, in the 36th week of her pregnancy, Lisa informed Knolla that she noticed less movement from the twin fetuses she was carrying.   Knolla assured Lisa that this was common and that everything appeared to be normal.   Two days later, Lisa called the OB/GYN Group to again report a lack of fetal movement and was told to come to the office to meet with Dietrich.   Dietrich’s examination revealed that one of the fetuses suffered from bradycardia, a decrease in the fetus’ heart rate, and a lack of amniotic fluid.   Dietrich instructed Lisa to proceed to Methodist Hospital for examination by Robertson, who was employed by Perinatal Associates.

During his examination, Robertson determined that an immediate cesarean section should be performed.   Shortly thereafter, Colin and his twin brother, Connor, were delivered.   Colin was born with brain damage and currently suffers from cerebral palsy and significant physical, cognitive, and behavioral difficulties.

The Gourleys filed suit alleging that Knolla and the OB/GYN Group failed to monitor Lisa and Colin while they were under their care.   At the close of the Gourleys’ case in chief, Methodist Hospital moved for a directed verdict.   The court granted the motion and dismissed Methodist Hospital.

The jury found Knolla and the OB/GYN Group to be 60 percent and 40 percent negligent, respectively.   The jury awarded the Gourleys $5,625,000.   The Gourleys moved for a new trial, arguing that the court erred in granting a directed verdict to Methodist Hospital.   The jury found for Dietrich, Robertson,  Sleder, and Perinatal Associates, and the court later dismissed them from the case.

Hot Coffee Movie

Hot Coffee Movie

The district court reduced the jury’s award and entered judgment for the Gourleys and against Knolla and the OB/GYN Group, jointly and severally, in the amount of $1,250,000.   The court found that § 44-2825(1) was constitutional.

The Gourleys filed a second motion for new trial, contending that the cap on damages imposed by § 44-2825 is unconstitutional because it violates their rights to (1) equal protection;  (2) a jury trial;  (3) an open court and full remedy;  (4) substantive due process;  and (5) life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.   The Gourleys also alleged that the Legislature exceeded its power when imposing the cap and that the cap was unconstitutional special legislation.

Knolla and the OB/GYN Group also moved for a new trial because of 16 alleged errors, among which were that the verdict was not agreed to by five-sixths of the jury as required by Neb.Rev.Stat. § 25-1125 (Reissue 1995) and that the court erred in receiving certain exhibits and testimony into evidence.

The Related Question: Is it right to put caps on damages?

Positive Aspects:

  • This would limit the liability of defendants.
  • We cannot make them infinitely liable .
  • This will demotivate people from filing frivolous suits.

Negative Aspects:

  • People having received handicaps for life would not be compensated adequately.
  • Whose life has been spoiled and he who requires life long intensive care , should be the beneficiary of compensation of exemplary  nature.

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Oliver E. Diaz’s case

After two years on the bench Diaz was indicted in 2003 on bribery and tax fraud charges, which he considers to be politically motivated. This was related to a case against Mississippi trial attorney Paul Minor. US District Attorney Dunnican “Dunn” Lampton, head of the US Southern District of Mississippi, prosecuted the case against Diaz allegedly at the behest of Republicans during the George W. Bush Dismissal of U.S. attorneys controversy.

Hot Coffee Movie

Hot Coffee Movie

In 2005, he was acquitted of politically motivated bribery charges for steering thousands of dollars from trial lawyers into his 2000 campaign. Less than a week after his acquittal on the bribery charges, the Department of Justice, with prosecuting attorney Lampton at the helm, unsealed and charged Diaz with tax evasion.

In 2006 Diaz was acquitted of the charges of tax evasion, although his wife Jennifer pleaded guilty and received 2 years probation. At the commencement of the criminal trial Lampton filed a complaint with Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance. Leslie Lampton, a relative of Dunn Lampton sat on the commission during the filing. The commission dismissed the complaint.

The criminal charges subsequently kept Diaz off the bench during much of his term. It has been speculated the charges were politically motivated to aid Republican in the upcoming elections. This speculation was a topic discussed in detail in the documentary film Hot Coffee.

John Grisham has cited the Bribery and Tax Evasion Charges against Judge Oliver Diaz as inspiration for his novel The Appeal.

The Related Question: Would money playing the greater role in Judicial Election, be right?

Negative Aspects:

  • If money makes judges and judges make laws , that means Rich make Law, which obviously would not be favoring the poor.
  • Like the chairperson ATRA [American Tort Reform Association] stated ” Today, 5 million US$ are being invested in judicial elections, tomorrow you may even have hundred of millions being invested in the elections”.

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