|Myth busting HBO documentary Hot Coffee makes Twin Cities debut|
|Thursday, January 19, 2012|
Tonight’s Minneapolis screening of the 2011 Official Selection of the Sundance Film Festival tells the story of what really happened to the 79-year-old grandmother who was severely injured by McDonald’s hot coffee
Additional screenings of the jaw dropping documentary are planned for Fargo, Duluth, Rochester, International Falls, Bemidji and Alexandria
The story is infamous. A woman buys a cup of coffee at a McDonald’s, spills it on herself and experiences insignificant burns. Claiming that McDonalds should have warned her that the coffee was “hot”, she gets an attorney to file a lawsuit suit against McDonald’s and, incredibly, a jury awards her millions of dollars.
Clearly, there is something terribly wrong with a justice system that would impose such an outrageous judgment against the most respected and adored hamburger joint in America--just because some lady couldn’t hold on to her coffee. Right?
Enter attorney Susan Saladoff: The producer and director of the critically acclaimed documentary Hot Coffee who will be featured at the Minneapolis screening of the myth debunking film tonight at the Parkway Theater.
Ms. Saladoff’s documentary reveals the unsavory public relations machine behind one of the most misunderstood civil trials in American history. Seinfeld mocked it. Letterman ranked it in his top ten list. And, more than fifteen years later, its infamy continues. Everyone thinks they know the McDonald’s case, but Hot Coffee reveals what really happened to Stella Liebeck, the Albuquerque woman who suffered scalding burns from McDonald’s coffee, and examines how and why the case garnered so much media attention, who funded that effort and to what end.
What Really Happened? The Hollywood Reporter’s review of the Hot Coffee showing at Sundance captures the essence of the story McDonalds and other corporate interests, with the help of the media, were able to keep from the average citizen: “In this heady presentation, Saladoff presents a compelling case on how corporate America has utilized sensationalized lawsuit settlements to curry public opinion against “frivolous” lawsuits…Saladoff also includes numerous man-in-the-street interviews, which clearly indicate that the general public's uninformed view of the case was that it was outrageous for someone to sue over hot coffee.”
“Filmmaker Saladoff pinpoints that case, interviewing the elderly plaintiff, as well as showing graphic medical photographs of the burns she suffered in her private areas that are so jarring and horrific that one must look away. Saladoff also presents vividly McDonalds' arrogant and dismissive treatment of the woman when she initially sought just to have her medical bills covered. All the while, McDonald's had in its files numerous other reports where McCustomers had been injured by their overly hot brew.”
Why this story is Important. The timing of the twin cities screening is no accident. On January 24th, Minnesota’s legislators will gather in St. Paul for the start of the 2012 legislative session and on their ‘unfinished’ agenda from last year will be an effort to pass a package of bills that put consumer and small business owners rights at risk. With legislation written by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in Washington D.C., and backed by big insurance companies, Minnesota’s legislators are being asked to approve corporate cookie-cutter bills that would use mythical examples such as the McDonalds hot coffee case in an effort to take away Minnesotan’s rights to fair and equitable access to our justice system.
Brian Wojtalewicz, President of the Minnesota Association for Justice (MAJ) MAJ is one of several sponsors of the Hot Coffee screenings across the state, said “These anti-consumer bills have been promoted based on the myth that our Minnesota courts are broken and that job creation is hampered by the current law. But, removing Minnesotans legal rights is not a jobs program. The documentary, Wojtalewicz added, “Exposes the truth behind the public relations effort by big business and big insurance to demonize our legal rights as citizensj to their benefit, thereby putting consumers in harm’s way.”
Although the documentary is anchored by the infamous McDonald’s care, the film goes much further into the debate about our civil justice system. Stella Liebeck’s story serves as a vehicle for people to rethink their long held beliefs - and whether they are no longer valid.
“Stella Liebeck’s true human story is a powerful way to see the truth behind complicated legal theory and hard to read statutory language.” said Carla Ferrucci, executive director of the Minnesota Association for Justice. “This documentary shows the real life impact of these insurance industry attacks on the rights of individual citizens to hold wrongdoers accountable. We are confident that after people see this film, they will see who really profits from these reform bills and will join us in our effort to stop them.”
Ferrucci continues that, ”It is imperative that Minnesotans understand just how drastically these proposals will affect the rights of consumers and small business to obtain justice when unscrupulous business come into our state and prey on senior citizens and other vulnerable communities.”
More Hot Coffee screenings. “This screening and others held throughout the state in the next two months will help us to debunk the myths about frivolous lawsuits in Minnesota. Personal injury and medical malpractice case filings have gone down 24% in the last decade; Minnesota has the lowest medical malpractice premiums in the country; Minnesota’s auto insurance premiums have gone down approximately 14% since 2003 and, our court rules and procedures are the envy of the every other state in the country. Indeed, concerned Minnesotans will surely wonder why these bills are being brought forward. The only reasonable conclusion is to reward big insurance at the expense of working families.” Ferrucci said.
For more information on Hot Coffee screenings in Minnesota: http://hotcoffee.mnaj.org
For more information on the Hot Coffee documentary: www.hotcoffeethemovie.com
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