The New York Times published a great article on Oct. 21, 2013 telling the true story of the McDonald’s Hot Coffee case. The article also has a 12 minute video that recaps the story of the plaintiff in the case, Stella Liebeck. It’s worth watching.
The McDonald’s Hot Coffee case is widely misunderstood. At the time, it was not accurately reported by the media and the case was exaggerated and made fun of in late night talk shows. The case has become a part of popular culture and the poster child for the pro tort reform groups. The public’s perception of the case has been detrimental for trial lawyers and their clients. It has tainted perceptions of jurors and been used to unfairly mock and ridicule those who would bring personal injury lawsuits.
The average person has misunerstood the acutal facts of the case, including Stella Liebeck’s injuries – which were truly severe. In addition, people have misunderstood the verdict in the case as well as the fact that the ultimate award was subquently lowered substantially. As in all cases, there are two sides of the story. In this case, Stella Liebeck’s side of the story was not fairly reported.
A few years ago, the documentary Hot Coffee debuted and did an excellent job of thoroughly examining the case, revealing the true story. Here’s the trailer for the Hot Coffee documentary:
The inaccurate portrayal of the Hot Coffee case has negatively impacted the ability of regular people to get justice through our civil justice system. I strongly encourage you to learn the real story behind the case.