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The movie ‘Hot Coffee’ is a documentary mainly on a case, Liebeck v. McDonald’s[1], which is better known as the “hot coffee lawsuit” and this case has been discussed in Exhibit I in the movie. This case came into news because of $2.7 million compensation was granted to the plaintiff. Most people associate this case with the very worst of our judicial system: namely, frivolous actions brought by greedy plaintiffs with the hopes of winning the lawsuit lottery. But it was not like the people thought, the issue was of great concern as depicted in the movie. The defendant wasnegligent in their actions which led to this lawsuit. The compensation was later reduced to $480,000 and the defendant was made to the state that it engaged in “Wilfully and Recklessly” towards this incident. This case gave rise to confusion among the masses that how could get such a huge amount for such a small incident. But this movie totally solves this confusion. From this case in the movie people will come to know the meaning of tort and what are the solutions for any tortious acts committed on them.
In the Exhibit II of the movie, another case, Gourley Gourley v.  OB GYN[2] has been discussed. This exhibit talks about ‘Caps on Damages’ which lead to injustice to the plaintiff in this landmark case. Caps on Damages limits the compensation given to the aggrieved party. This issue is also of a great concern, of awarding how much compensation to the suffering party from the tort committed on them. After the hot coffee incident this issue was raised which was taken into consideration by the Tort Reform of U.S.A. So, after the “hot coffee lawsuit”, Cps on Damages was introduced, limiting the compensation amount. This might be beneficial for the industries and the major corporations but to some aggrieved party this limitation might be injustice. Limitation is also needed but some exceptions must be made to counter the situation like in this case.
Exhibit III describes about the election of court judge. Due to the Caps on Damages, the state Supreme Courts were holding it unconstitutional. In the heat of the events in the judiciary the Tort Reform were at full pace and so a Judge Karl Rove was misusing the Tort Reformand another Judge, Oliver Diaz stood in his way, fighting for the rights of the people. But J Diaz couldn’t cope up in the next elections as the opponent brought him down through prosecution, which led to bad reputation of J Diaz. The Tort Reform was being misused heavily for the rich people, their companies and industries. All these consequences resulted in complexing the situation in the US.
Mandatory Arbitration is the issue raised in the Exhibition IV. The case, Jamie Leigh Jones v. Halliburton[3]is described on this issue in the movie. This is an important issue as things like mobile phones we buy or the credit card we get, comes with certain instructions which we do not think about reading them before using the product, then reading about the contracts, terms and conditions involved in them is a far heard thing. Ignorance of this, sometimes leads to terrible situations, accidents and cases; same has been in Jamie’s case. These contracts and instructions are made for the benefit of the company and the employee is generally forced into them as can be seen in Jamie’s case.  Either the employee is totally unaware of such type of clause / or the person cannot completely understand what it actually means or the company many a times tend to add such clauses without much of notice or keep it hidden within lines. It makes a scenario of not Free consent or Fraud, as employee has no other option to accept these conditions otherwise, he would tend to lose his/her job.
This documentary basically features how the people tend to suffer because of the Tort Reform and how changes takes place over time. It also creates awareness about “tort” to the masses. It shows truth to the masses about the ‘hot coffee lawsuit’, the case which led to the Seventh Amendment giving the Constitutional Right to the people of US to settle disputes through trial by jury. It shows how the lawsuits are changing the civil justice system. It shows how common people can get into tortious trouble and how they get out of it. It has shed light on the, misconceptions surrounding Tort Reform and how the civil justice already been sold.



[1]1994 Extra LEXIS 23 (Bernalillo County, N.M. Dist. Ct. 1994), 1995 WL 360309 (Bernalillo County, N.M. Dist. Ct. 1994).

[2]663 N.W.2d 43 (2003).

[3]625 F.Supp.2d 339 (2008).




Ayush Pandia is a law student at National University of Study and Research in Law, Ranchi.




In Content Picture Credit: Facebook

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