Hot Coffee and Tort Reform

Monday, June 27, 2011

Filmmaker Susan Saladoff, a former public interest lawyer, talks about her documentary “Hot Coffee,” about the McDonald’s coffee case, which continues to be cited as a prime example of how citizens use “frivolous” lawsuits to take unfair advantage of America’s legal system. But is that an accurate portrayal of the facts? The movie looks at the infamous legal battle that began with a spilled cup of McDonald’s coffee and investigates America’s zeal for tort reform, which, Saladoff argues, could restrict the legal rights of everyday citizens and undermine the entire civil justice system. The documentary debuts June 27 on HBO.


Susan Saladoff

Comments [10]

Jack Peracciny from Middleport,NY

For justice to prevail, there must be "transparency", and the jury system operating in a courtroom in full view of the public and press is what makes this country great. Tort reform is just a manipulation by the rich to hide their negligence with the use of mandatory arbitration which they control.

Jun. 27 2011 11:12 PM

To Joe Pearce: the fallacy of your argument is the comparison between stairs that are "perfectly maintained, and has( should read "have"), no impediments to a safe climb or descent; it is an absolutely perfect stairway" and coffee that is 180 degrees.

Jun. 27 2011 02:15 PM
Joe Pearce from Brooklyn

Most reasonable and intelligent people I know still consider the Hot Coffee Suit against McDonald's to have been a frivilous one, and the finding in the plaintiff's favor one more nail in the coffin of the concept of individual responsibility.
No one doubts Ms. Saladoff's contention that the burns suffered by the plaintiff were extremely serious, but she spilled the coffee on herself; McDonald's did not assign a server who either accidentally or deliberately spilled the coffee on the plaintiff, which would be, of course, an entirely different matter. This comes from the same SLM (shyster legal mindset) that over and over determines that a person who falls down a stairs has every right to sue the owner of that stairs for damages, even though the stairs is perfectly maintained, and has no impediments to a safe climb or descent; it is an absolutely perfect stairway. Ah, but the very fact of its existence is proof positive that the plaintiff deserves compensation, because if the owner of the stairs had not put it up, then it would never have been there for the plaintiff to fall down it. He or she is hurt and must be compensated, so someone must be responsible. If, when lifting a pot of boiling water off my stove, I spill it on myself and experience severe burns, I guess the SLMs will then advise me that I have a valid lawsuit against the makers of the stove, the makers of the pot, or perhaps the Maker of the water (if we can find Him), but damn it, SOMEONE HAS TO PAY! No wonder certain members of the legal profession are held in such low repute, and that so many of them inhabit the halls of Congress, the Senate, and just about every extabt state and municipal body of lawmakers. We, and many future generations, will die and be long passed on before anyone in this country sees any kind of tort reform.

Jun. 27 2011 01:45 PM

Apologies: thank you for the documentary, not book. It's such a great issue to bring to light. I've been so disappointed by those who think this case was frivolous. Just last summer, I had a impassioned debate on it. I've never heard any one say they thought McD was guilty. How can they not empathize with that amount of pain and suffering and not see how negligent McD was? People don't realize how damaging the Tort Reform movement is.

Jun. 27 2011 01:21 PM
Nick from UWS

Bravo to Ms. Saladoff for her efforts in this arena. What really needs to be done is a similar film drawing fierce attention to the obvious rampant corporate corruption of the current Supreme Court. I hope one day some film maker will tackle this fearsome subject.

Jun. 27 2011 01:21 PM
jon steiger from NYC

It's my understanding that there was evidence at the McDonald's coffee case that Corporate McDonald's had made a marketing decision to keep its coffee at those temperatures in spite of internal investigations of the issue because McDonald's had a reputation for having hotter coffee than its competitors and this increased sales to offices, etc. because the coffee would be hot when it arrived.

Jun. 27 2011 01:19 PM

Even if she was driving, why did McD sell a product that could do that much damage? And, why would it distribute such a product into a moving vehicle? 180-190 degrees. It's so sad this happened to this woman. McD deserved this ruling. Kudos to the jury and judge.

Jun. 27 2011 01:12 PM

I am very glad to hear this topic is alive and well. Thank you to Ms. Saladoff for speaking on this and writing this book. Tort Reform, along with a lack of regulation by the SEC, no progress for cancer, climate change and biological/chemical warfare are what Americans should fear most.

Jun. 27 2011 12:11 PM
Shana from Clinton Hill, Brooklyn

Cracked did a thing on this and several other "frivolous" lawsuits. It was interesting reading the pertinent facts--all took about three or four paragraphs to explain--and see how not frivolous many of the cases people reference are. But acknowledging the facts seems to be too boring for the evening news and politicians with agendas.

Jun. 27 2011 10:43 AM
Patrick from Patrick

Consumer protection also leads to another issue in the fast food industry - supersizing. The supersizing of soft drinks and meal portions is said to lead to obesity. What are consumer advocates doing about that?

Jun. 27 2011 06:15 AM

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