Future Leaders Section using documentary as eye-opener
By Matthew C. Monroe, Esquire
Hot Coffee is a documentary that everyone should see. And PAJ’s Future Leaders Section wants to make sure that everybody does.
Susan Saladoff’s lucid documentary tells the actual and shocking story of 79-year old Stella Liebeck, the Albuquerque grandmother who sued McDonald’s to cover her medical bills after she spilled a cup of the fast-food-chain’s java in her lap in 1992. Due to the extreme temperatures at which McDonald’s maintained its coffee, Mrs. Liebeck suffered third degree burns. In the course of the suit, her attorneys learned that McDonald’s knew of at least 700 other reported injuries from the scalding coffee. Despite this record, McDonald’s did nothing to make its coffee safer for its customers.
Yet Mrs. Liebeck was mocked, lampooned, and unfairly portrayed as a greedy plaintiff trying to game a legal system that lets “junk lawsuits” pour through the courthouse doors. Why?
Hot Coffee answers that question by meticulously tracking these caricatures of Stella Liebeck’s case back to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The film reveals the Chamber’s decades-long, well-financed campaign to gut the civil justice system, which is the principle forum where citizens can hold the largest, most well-heeled corporate “persons” accountable. Hot Coffee shows that the only “junk” to come out of Mrs. Liebeck’s case was the outrageous misrepresentations about her lawsuit.
Let PAJ help you show Hot Coffee
Hot Coffee is a powerful teaching tool to raise public awareness about the gutting of our civil justice system. Yet many of your staff, family and clients did not get to see the film when it was showing on HBO.
Show the film. PAJ is providing DVDs at no charge to Future Leaders Section members who are showing Hot Coffee to their law firm staff, clients, and in law school classrooms.
Stir up debate. Watching in a group setting will stimulate discussion. PAJ will provide you with points to help you lead a discussion.
Tell us your experience. PAJ will follow up to get your feedback.
Take it to the next level. Some members plan to hold public screenings at movie theaters; PAJ will arrange for special copies of the DVD with public performance rights. Before the big debut, it is important that you first show it to a smaller audience like your office staff, to help prepare for the discussion.
The PAJ Future Leaders Section adopted a plan to host in-firm screenings of Hot Coffee – for support staff, partners, associates and clients.
Some Future Leaders are connecting with Pennsylvania law schools to stage screenings for students. Others plan to organize public screenings at independent movie theaters and art houses.
Working at a law firm can be tough. In the day-to-day, we may lose sight of what a noble, brave act it is for an individual to bring a lawsuit against a powerful corporation and wrongdoer. Hot Coffee reminds us that our clients expose themselves to public scrutiny and ridicule in their fight to hold wrongdoers accountable.
Stella Liebeck’s story is our story and our clients’ story. It is our job to make sure there is no one left to lie to.
PAJ Member Matthew C. Monroe is with the Philadelphia and Medford, NJ law firm of Sheller, P.C. He is chair of the Future Leaders Section's Hot Coffee Outreach Project.
Craig Giangiulio, PAJ Executive Director
Matt Monroe, Esq., Future Leaders Project Chair
AFTER screening the DVD, please click here to submit your comments
Go to Future Leaders Section