HBO aired the documentary "Hot Coffee" last night, which takes aim at the myths of tort reform, 'frivolous lawsuits', mandatory arbitration clauses and the multi-million dollar battles to manipulates courts and voters.
Filmmaker Susan Saladoff was formerly an attorney and this is her first film and she makes sure it packs a powerful punch. She starts with the myths surrounding the "hot coffee" case where a 79-year-old woman's effort to be compensated for horrendous physical damages from a spilled cup of McDonald's coffee. She has been touted as the poster child of a frivolous lawsuit - but the facts of her near-crippling wounds demolish the myths most Americans believe to be the facts of the case.
Also featured is the brutal attack on a KBR employee in Iraq, Jamie Leigh Jones, whose savage rape by fellow employees was deemed safe from prosecution due to a mandatory arbitration clause in her employment contract - the case led to a change in federal laws, but she is still attempting to find justice as her case finally hit the courts on June 12th of this year.
I've written previously about Jones' tragic attack and the dubious constitutional legalities of 'mandatory arbitration'.
Money and the rising primacy of corporations above individuals are detailed in 'Hot Coffee' in ways likely to make a viewer's head explode.
Of course, those whose tactics are under attack from the film cry and moan that it is soooo unfair.
They are furious - because having a 'fair review' of your complaint is considered a fundamental American right.
So perhaps the question which should be best considered is simple - how can it be legal for a company to demand that as part of your employment, or as part of your decision to buy a product, you must waive your right to due process in court?
The movie also highlights the state-by-state attack on laws to protect consumers and hold companies accountable, and when those laws were upheld, a state-by-state attack to install judges who would favor business above the rights of the individual. And of course, this maze of mirrors has been sold to the general public as 'reform'.