A recently produced documentary has been shedding light on a subject that is much discussed when it comes to plaintiff’s rights versus public relations campaigns that are actually funded by big corporations.
The ‘hot coffee’ case was repeatedly teased and used as an example of how the legal system in the United States is being taken advantage of by some citizens. Recently, a filmmaker decided to take this issue to the big screen by showing viewers how the media portrayed the case of Stella Liebeck versus McDonald’s at the time of the incident and how the victim’s life changed after the occurrence.
In some cases, lawsuits are deemed frivolous. According to others, the public should keep it in mind that before reaching a preconceived judgment on certain legal disputes, facts must be examined and myths must be debunked, which is what the producers of “Hot Coffee” wished to achieve with the Stella Liebeck case.
According to the documentary, the 79-year-old resident of New Mexico was reportedly burned while handling a cup of hot coffee while sitting in the front passenger seat of a parked vehicle in the McDonald’s parking lot. At the time of the incident, family members and close friends stepped up in defense of their loved one, claiming that the plaintiff was never clumsy or careless, which could have explained the burning incident. As a matter of fact, as it’s shown in the documentary, the victim in this accident suffered severe 3rd degree burns on her buttocks, thighs and groin area, which led to her hospitalization.
After the occurrence, the victim contacted McDonald’s and asked them to pay for her hospital bills, which added up to $10,000, but McDonalds refused to help. Instead, they offered her $800.
According to the documentary, by the time the victim had been injured in the hot coffee case, about 700 incidents related to the same problem had been reported to McDonald’s, a fact that didn’t sound odd or alarming to McDonald’s Quality Assurance Manager at the time.
In the end, Stella Liebeck was awarded $160,000 in compensation over McDonald’s reportedly reckless behavior. On top of her compensation, $480,000 in punitive damages was awarded to the plaintiff.
This case teaches us that all facts and myths must be carefully investigated before conclusions are established. Hopefully, victims of the recklessness of others will learn they must not be afraid to fight for justice if they were unfairly injured due to the negligence of a third party.
For more information, visit the film’s website by clicking here.