Sunday, June 26, 2011

Hot Coffee - a documentary film

This past week I was at the Silverdocs film festival seeing some good and some great documentaries that I want to share with you, but I will get to that later. For today I wanted to write about the film Hot Coffee, specifically because it is playing on HBO tomorrow night (Monday) and it is absolutely a must-see.

Hot Coffee is about that lawsuit you have most likely heard of in which a woman spilled hot coffee on herself and was awarded $2.9 million from McDonalds. Now, if you're like me you are probably thinking "ugh, some woman sued because she spilled coffee on herself... Ridiculous!" But what you don't know is that she wasn't driving when it happened, she didn't actually sue for $2.9 million (she just sued to cover her medical bills - the $2.9 million was awarded as punitive damages to punish McDonalds for their gross negligence by ignoring 700 other coffee burn claims before hers), she wasn't actually awarded $2.9 million (the judge reduced it to something like $400,000), and - most importantly - that she had worse than 3rd degree burns - burns so severe she had to get skin grafts and there was a point that they weren't sure she was going to live through it.

Seeing the terrifying photos of the burns will be what really changes your mind. After leaving the movie, never again will I accuse someone of a "frivolous" lawsuit before I investigate the facts for myself.

The reason this film is so important is because it will really open your mind to how easily manipulated we are by special interests (via the media) and how irresponsible the media often is. Not to mention how little rights we currently have in many states to challenge a corporation who wrongs us. All your perceptions of how the civil justice system works will be challenged and you will never again fall for the idea that a company paying when they harm someone is bad for the people or bad for the country.

You will also learn a little about every contract you ever sign (for your cell phone, your car, your credit cards, and often even for your employment). It really paints a bleak picture but it's so important to see the film so that we can fight back. There are politicians who are making a difference and fighting for the people (Al Franken is featured in the film for legislation he got passed that presents companies from mandating arbitration for things like rape, assault and discrimination), so it's not a totally bleak picture. But really, I can't stress enough how important it is to see this film. If you don't have HBO, it should be doing a theatrical run in the fall, but go on the website and learn what you can until you get a chance to see it.

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