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July 4, 2015

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Pick of the Day: Hot Coffee: Is Justice Being Served? | DVD

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Hot CoffeeHot Coffee: Is Justice Being Served? 86-min. and 50-min. versions. w/discussion guide. Dist. by Bullfrog Films. 2011, released in 2013. $350. ISBN 1937772926.
Gr 9 Up–The case of the lady burned by McDonald’s coffee is often held up as a textbook example of a frivolous lawsuit. Using this incident and others, Susan Saladoff examines the rise of big business’ influence in court cases, often under the banner of tort reform. Originally shown on HBO and at the Sundance Film Festival, the 86-minute version features four examples where plaintiffs are trounced by big business interests. Along with Stella Liebeck (the woman burned by the coffee), the Gourleys have a disabled son, Judge Oliver Diaz was politically targeted for his judicial decisions, and Jamie Leigh Jones was raped on a job site in Iraq. Hot Coffee does an excellent job presenting their stories. There are also particularly strong women spokespeople and role models. The 50-minute version highlights two cases: Liebeck’s and the Gourleys’s. Both would spark class discussion. The two versions include modestly draped and graphic photos of Liebeck’s burned thighs, and the longer version also includes a few frank statements about the rape. The discussion guide questions are generally sophisticated, and some require further reading to fully explore; A further reading list is included. (Opposing views from the US Chamber of Commerce, American Tort Reform Association, and Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse are widely available on the web.) A good choice for constitutional law or pre-law classes. This film would capture the interest of most students.–Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX

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