What you haven’t heard about Stella Liebeck may shock you.
Liebeck, the Albuquerque woman who spilled scalding hot McDonald’s coffee on herself and sued, has been mocked, lampooned and unfairly portrayed as the symbol of so-called "frivolous litigation" in America.
But the documentary Hot Coffee, premiering Monday night on HBO, demonstrates that Ms. Liebeck’s case was anything but frivolous. In Ms. Liebeck’s case, she sustained third-degree burns on 6% of her body, was hospitalized, and had to undergo painful skin grafts. She was not alone. More than 700 individuals reported to McDonald’s they had been seriously injured by coffee kept dangerously hot by McDonald’s in the ten years prior to Ms. Liebeck’s injuries.
The legacy of Ms. Liebeck’s case was in many ways a victory for Big Business bent on frightening away injured people from using the civil justice system to hold corporations accountable for creating dangerous products that cost people serious, avoidable injuries.
Hot Coffee, which is being heralded as a powerful piece of advocacy journalism, promises to change that narrative.
The film highlights how the "tort reform" political movements led by Big Business to artificially limit jury awards has left victims in dire emotional and financial situations.
Hot Coffee is a call to action to hold corporate wrongdoers accountable and to preserve just compensation for their victims.