St. Thomas University
Business Law II
Hot Coffee is a documentary which tells stories of four individuals and the impact tort reform laws had on their lives. These cases were discuss and related to tort reform in the United States.
The documentary started with a $0.49 cent cup of coffee from McDonalds that turned into a million dollar lawsuit. Stella Liebeck 79 years suffered from third degree burns from the cup of coffee she had purchased which was sold at temperatures that it shouldn’t be. The burns were so severe causing her to be hospitalized her for eight days. Liebecks family wanted McDonalds to pay for the medical bill, but McDonalds refused to pay the full bill causing this situation to lead court. During trial McDonalds was exposed of over seven hundred similar claims prior to this lawsuit. The jury assigned 20% fault to Mrs. Liebeck for spilling the coffee and assigned an 80% fault to McDonalds because there previous history with people being injured for similar incidents. The jury decided to award Mrs. Liebeck two days’ worth of McDonalds coffee sales, which was $160,000 dollars and was awarded $2.7 million dollars in punitive damages, but was later reduced to $480,000 dollars. Punitive damages are damages used to change the behavior of the wrong doer. The case created huge media buzz because the public thought the act was intentional and the Liebeck family was taking extreme measures by filing a lawsuit. This case is used in the film to illustrate how big corporations used the case as a catalyst for tort reform. Tort reform is a perplexing political issue. Modification in tort impose civil penalty to reduce the amount of money that an injured party can receive in tort litigation cases and restrict consumers to take cases to court. The American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) is a group of businesses and colleges/universities such as Boeing, Caterpillar, Coca Cola...
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