You may not remember Stella Liebeck’s name, but you surely haven’t forgotten the lawsuit she launched against McDonald’s after spilling hot coffee on herself and suffering second and third degree burns. The infamous case — resulting in a jury awarding her $2.86 million in punitive damages (later reduced to $800,000 and settled out of court) — stirred controversy and raised serious questions, if not anger, about America’s civil justice system.
In Susan Saladoff’s HBO documentary Hot Coffee, you’ll learn the facts (not just the myths) about the case, as taken from a supportive stance toward Liebeck. Saladoff, a first-time filmmaker with a background as a representative of plaintiffs in personal injury and liability type cases, shares critical points in regards to tort reform (championed by corporate pigs like Karl Rove and George W. Bush) and the fight against “frivolous” lawsuits that have caused damage award caps and mandatory restrictions on what plaintiffs walk away with.
Saladoff presents other lesser-heard-of cases that are emotionally gripping. In the film, we see victims, not money hungry folks who are pushing bogus suing stunts. She doesn’t touch as much on the opposite end of the spectrum — folks who do abuse the system as well as the rights and protections that companies are entitled to for survival. In any case, the documentary offers a compelling viewpoint on one side of the heated grounds of the justice system, liability and civil liberties in our country.
To check it out, visit EpiCentre Theaters for a free screening and meet-and-greet with the director tomorrow. Free admission. Oct. 10, 7 p.m.-9 p.m. EpiCentre Theaters, 210 E. Trade St. 704-688-2400. www.epicentretheaters.com.