"Hot Coffee"

Friday, July 08, 2011

Transcript

We all think we know the story of the woman who spilled McDonald’s coffee on herself and then sued the fast food chain for millions.  But in the new HBO documentary "Hot Coffee", filmmaker Susan Saladoff shows how the media got the story all wrong, and often demonizes civil litigation, using phrases like “frivolous lawsuit” and “jackpot justice.”  She says the distortion of civil cases is part of a big PR push to discourage people from suing big business.

Comments [23]

Elisa Jed

Interesting that she would say that. If anything, her lawsuit encouraged people to sue big businesses. All I can say is that I am getting <a href="http://www.putnamlieb.com">personal injury attorney in Olympia WA</a> if a beverage of moderate temperature spills on me.

Aug. 07 2013 11:54 AM
Charles

Jonathan,
McDonald's doesn't put out hot coffee for the fun of it. McDonald's puts out hot coffee because they don't want customers complaining about coffee that seems too cold. To burn your crotch with hot coffee, you have to do somthing dumb. Like putting it between your legs and fumbling with the top. Like what Mrs. Leiback did.

You can do the same thing with perfectly good, useful, products like power saws, lawnmowers, ATV's, etc.

Brooke Gladstone asked, "You have a big dog in this fight, don't you?" The answer from Ms. Saladoff was impliedly in the affirmative: "I do have a point of view..." she said. The OTHER point of view was never acknowledged here.

This was nothing short of promotion for a broadside attack in the form of a documentary film produced by the lawsuit industry.

Jul. 30 2011 02:37 PM
jonathan

Charles,

You've engaged in ad hominem attack on Susan Saladoff and public radio. Now you and Doug claim that you simply want "the other side of the debate." The topic was about how misinformation gets spread for political purposes. Are you claiming that the hot coffee woman didn't receive 3rd degree burns from a product that McDonald's repeatedly and knowingly sold that could cause severe injuries? Are you claiming that she wanted a million dollar payment? Are you claiming that "tort reform" advocates don't repeatedly disseminate misinformation about the facts of these cases? What exactly is "the other side of the debate" you want?

Jul. 25 2011 05:24 AM
Matt Love from Ypsilanti, Michigan, 48198, USA

"We all think we know the story of the woman who spilled McDonald’s coffee on herself and then sued the fast food chain for millions." Maybe NPR and their listeners are only just now learning about the truth of the McDonald's coffee incident (and what it represents). It is consistent with your "too little too late" approach. I heard this story, and I wondered what took you so long - first you had to wait for somebody to make the movie, so that you could talk to the filmmaker about it. You couldn't dig it up yourselves, obviously, that sort of reporting is unfashionable.

Something like a decade or so ago, I got into a discussion with a bunch of people on a yahoo list about the hot coffee incident. The more facts I brought to the discussion, the more hostile they became. Served the old lady right, stupidity should have consequences, she should have been waterboarded, she should have been crucified with 50,000 other seniors on the main avenue running through Rome, I mean Washington DC. On and on.

So many people are stupid and cruel, or at least they like to pretend to be online. Some folks seem to consider it to be a badge of honor to demonstrate themselves to be lacking in any sort of fundamental human decency. I left that list, I just couldn't stand to be around that much cruelty anymore. But there's no escaping it, is there? I'm seeing the same sort of things being said right here, right now.

Jul. 11 2011 12:18 AM
Matt Love from Ypsilanti, Michigan, 48198, USA

"We all think we know the story of the woman who spilled McDonald’s coffee on herself and then sued the fast food chain for millions." Maybe NPR and their listeners are only just now learning about the truth of the McDonald's coffee incident (and what it represents). It is consistent with your "too little too late" approach. I heard this story, and I wondered what took you so long - first you had to wait for somebody to make the movie, so that you could talk to the filmmaker about it. You couldn't dig it up yourselves, obviously, that sort of reporting is unfashionable.

Something like a decade or so ago, I got into a discussion with a bunch of people on a yahoo list about the hot coffee incident. The more facts I brought to the discussion, the more hostile they became. Served the old lady right, stupidity should have consequences, she should have been waterboarded, she should have been crucified with 50,000 other seniors on the main avenue running through Rome, I mean Washington DC. On and on.

So many people are stupid and cruel, or at least they like to pretend to be online. Some folks seem to consider it to be a badge of honor to demonstrate themselves to be lacking in any sort of fundamental human decency. I left that list, I just couldn't stand to be around that much cruelty anymore. But there's no escaping it, is there? I'm seeing the same sort of things being said right here, right now.

Jul. 11 2011 12:17 AM

Paul from NY, that was pretty...odd, really. But it mentioned Ayn Rand, so I now have an excuse to post one of my favorite quotations:

" There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs." --John Rogers

Jul. 10 2011 11:00 PM
Charles

"Doktor Zoom" - You are free to take sides as you wish. You can attack Walter Olson as a partisan. I must accept that, because I sure as hell am attacking Susan Saladoff as a partisan.

But you miss my point. My argument is not that the other side of the debate needs to be silenced. I'd welcome a good, open fight with the Susan Saladoffs of the world.

No; my point is that On the Media quite studiously ignored the other side of the debate. There was no opposing voice, and if Brooke Gladstone thinks that hers was a tough or probing interview, then she really doesn't understand the subject matter.

This wasn't investigation; it was film-promotion. And, disturbingly, it was one of a half-dozen of more such deliberate promotions on our national public radio network of this one film.

Jul. 10 2011 09:09 PM
Paul from New York

Please everyone take a look at this:

http://www.forbes.com/2011/03/16/chevy-volt-ayn-rand-opinions-patrick-michaels_2.html

I would like to know if OTM reported the deadly silence on this subject in the MSM.

Jul. 10 2011 08:27 PM
Cerdwyn, So Cal Coffee Geek from Sunny Southern California

I am really tired of this being on one NPR show after another. COFFEE IS NOT PEOPLE!

Any Award Winning Barista will tell you that coffee is made and served at 195-+ degrees. Period. The worst thing about McDonalds coffee then and now is that it sits on a burner not the temperature of the burner.

Was McDonald's wrong in not just giving her the pennies to pay her co-pays? No, was it bad PR? Heck yes.

Have both sides tried to make a mountain out of a horrible set of burns? Yes. Was the jury wrong? Yes! And I'm about as liberal as they come.

Can we PLEASE quit talking about this? Dredging it up is only going to bring in frivolous lawsuits, because goodness knows we have many of those clogging up court dockets.

Jul. 10 2011 07:44 PM
Mark Richard from Columbus, Ohio

On the contrary, Doug, we do not expect better from 'On the Media'. No right-leaning documentary investigating the effects of sleazy trial lawyers, or (more broadly) how greedy people use leftish slogans to sucker left-friendly media into promoting their interests, would have gotten such softball treatment from this program.

Jul. 10 2011 06:34 PM

I wish Doug and Charles would go back to their corporate funded whorehouses and allow an alternative voice to be heard. You all have your corporate funded media outlets to have your voice heard on a much larger stage and may I add that in most cases your voices are outright lies and propaganda from the right.
Many folks will continue to support voices like On The Media and fight for their voices to be heard! I pity the trolls who frequent these boards and try to drown out the truth!
I applaud OTM for continued excellence and when they get it wrong, they acknowledge it. Unlike most news channels or programs.

Jul. 10 2011 06:25 PM

Charles suggests that we check out "Walter Olson and Ted Frank, contributors to the popular overlawyered.com blog" for a credible alternative. OK, so I did. Walter Olson is a senior fellow of the Koch Bros.-funded Cato Institute, which seeks to remove as many limits on corporations as possible. Ted Frank is a corporate attorney and former fellow of the Koch-funded American Enterprise Institute.

Golly, I'm sure they have everyday Americans' best interests in mind. Nice, however, to see an example of Astroturfing pop up right here in the comments.

Jul. 10 2011 05:52 PM
Charles

I wish to make this very clear, to the adimirers of this film, and to the producers of On the Media.

If you are interested in fairness on this subject, there are plenty of people who could speak to the substantive issues of tort reform, and to the specific issues of Susan Saladoff's filmmaking.

Walter Olson and Ted Frank, contributors to the popular overlawyered.com blog would be good interview subjects:

http://overlawyered.com/2011/06/hot-coffee-documentary-hbo-reviewed/

http://overlawyered.com/2009/09/hot-coffee-is-back/

I've already mentioned Victor Schwartz; giving him some modicum of equal time on this program would seem to be not only good an balanced journalism, but just plain common decency in light of the way that he was treated by Saladoff. (Brooke and Bob know about "editing." Tape editing is a big deal, apparently, if the editor is James O'Keefe. And not worth mentioning, apparently, if the editor is Susan Saladoff.)

And we should also note well -- Susan Saladoff, to my knowledge, has not given any interviews to any person who could competently challenge her many myths about personal injury (or should I say, "public interest"?) litigation. Naturally, seeking to do only favorable and unchallenging interviews, Ms. Saladoff is all over public radio.

Jul. 10 2011 01:13 PM
Jana Putnam from Memphis TN

Having just read Grishams The Appeal, a flawed novel about serious events, I want to thank you for your segment "Hot Coffee."
I am hoping PBS airs it soon since we cannot afford HBO as retired seniors without portfolio!  I've watched the propaganda mill from Madison Avenue for 6 decades,  assuming each year that critical thinking in the US would prevail. I've taught children and adults about misinformation particularly during the Cold War.  Now misleading communication, outright lies, are more prevalent than ever since corporate scions rule the world and greed trumps responsibility and good will.  Thank you, on the media, for continuing to press both sides of questions.     

 

  

Jul. 10 2011 11:43 AM
alex adams from denville

so-called outrage at alleged one-sided stories belies the reality of corp. media's party-line, headline, no sentences required Unanalysis of events. Yes, dammit, give me the one-sided counter argument to corp-speak & let me judge where lies truth.
Why did all corpmedia repeat the defense spin of the coffee story? and if the facts are wrong in this documentary, refute them rather than complain. Like others, i think the court had a better view of the facts than any of us.

Jul. 10 2011 11:09 AM
Charles

I have a media story for On the Media.

How like-minded liberals on a variety of public radio programs can work together to promote a film.

Susan Saladoff has now appeared on a number of public radio programs. As if public radio was on a mission to help promote this film. The interview that Brooke Gladstone did with Ms. Saladoff was functionally the same as the one that the host of "Here and Now" did with Ms. Saladoff on June 24:

http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2011/06/24/hot-coffee-sue

Then there are the series of NPR blogs:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2011/06/27/137448069/a-new-documentary-looks-back-at-a-famous-cup-of-mcdonalds-hot-coffee?print=1

And OF COURSE Ms. Saladoff got the red-carpet rolled out for her at "Democracy Now!":

http://www.democracynow.org/appearances/susan_saladoff

There was her "Marketplace" appearance:

http://marketplace.publicradio.org/display/web/2011/06/27/am-hot-coffee-burns-tort-reform/

And her appearance on "The Leonard Lopate Show", which completed a kind of Grand Slam of WNYC appearances, morning news and night:

http://www.wnyc.org/shows/lopate/2011/jun/27/hot-coffee-and-tort-reform/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+wnyc_home+%28WNYC+New+York+Public+Radio%29

So now I'd like to open things up to all of the other public radio listeners; has Susan Saladoff appeared on your local public radio station to flog her movie, and be given the "Brooke Gladstone Treatment"? (I can see the next blurb for a future release of "Hot Coffee": "NPR's Brooke Gladstone declares "Hot Coffee the move 'Gripping'!")

And finally, there was another big story, practically staring Brooke Gladston in the face. And she blew it. Victor Schwartz, who is the President of the American Tort Reform Association claims that he was essentially selectively-edited by Ms. Saladoff. The New York Times and the National Law Journal have done stories on that aspect of the current promotion of "Hot Coffee."

Hearing Ms. Saladoff talk about subjects that I know a good deal about, having defended personal injury actions in medical malpractice and drug litigation for more than 25 years, I absolutley believe that Saladoff is quite capable of such editing mischief. There is scarcely a single talking-point that Ms. Saladoff didn't make in this (or her other carbon-copy public radio interviews) that wasn't dubious, arguable, or demonstrably false. Any time she wants a public debate, there will be plenty of takers. Where do I sign up?

Jul. 10 2011 01:17 AM
Caroline from New York

I completely agree with Doug Brooks about how one-sided this segment was. Saladoff talks of these "checks and balances" that make sure frivilous law suits don't make it to court. I'm a physician and was on the defendant side of a frivolous law suit brought against me, several other physicians and the hospital for a completely unfounded complaint. The case has since been dismissed, but it took over 2 years to be dismissed and I will forever be tarnished as a "doctor who's been sued."

She talks about how corporations secretly funded all the "grassroots" tort-reform organizations. Maybe so. But her documentary is "experts" who are frontmen for political action groups formed by trial lawyers (without labeling them as such).

I'm not saying all tort cases are unfounded, and this documentary shows that sometimes not all sides in these cases are clearly aired by the media. But that doesn't mean that there are no frivolous law suits, and that side of the argument should have been aired in this segment.

Jul. 09 2011 10:43 PM
Rick Evans from 02368

While corporations do their part ginning up the notion that the nation is lawsuit crazy, lawyers are equally responsible for their image.

Daytime TV is full of celebrity "judge" shows such as Judy, Pirro, Joe Brown, Alex, etc. sponsored by a constant parade of personal injury lawyers. If the deck is soooo stacked against the plaintiffs how can these firms afford the TV advertising.

If you don't think these shows are lucrative, during her stint, ex-MA judge Maria Lopez bragged, on the WGBH TV program Greater Boston with Emily Rooney, about how much more she was making as a TV judge compared to her $100K plus judge salary. These shows are lucrative.

Jul. 09 2011 02:05 PM
Steve Maggi from Austin, TX

One of the first things you get taught working in a coffee shop is the McDonald's case. And what you're usually told is that McDonald's was at fault because the coffee was too hot, thus always make sure you give it to your customer at the temperature she/he wants it at (usually 140-170F) and always keep hot chocolate for kids low too.

Doug Brooks does come off as a Faux News troll or those dozens of other creeps ready to pounce on The Nation's message board. He's probably from News Corp's flak department or a flunky for the US Chamber of Commerce.

Jul. 09 2011 11:56 AM

I had a first-hand experience with the media's preference to play up the business-friendly 'tort-reform' narrative over the facts in a situation. Years ago I was a promo producer at a NY TV station. A segment on that evening's newscast was about TR. After reviewing the publicity information about the 'for' and 'against' guests who'd be debating the topic I wrote something along the lines of 'tort reform - a good idea to stop frivolous lawsuits or an attempt to take away your right to sue?"

The reporter working on the piece approved the script, and after the promo aired the news director hit the roof: all he wanted to hear was "these crazy lawsuits - how do we bring them under control?" (Gotta follow the corporate party line...)

As for Doug Brooks' complaint that the segment was 'one-sided,' he sounds like a Fox News viewer; well perhaps like Fox News, OTM's segment was telling (like FN likes to say) 'the other side of the story' that the 'lamestream media' chooses to overlook.

Jul. 09 2011 08:49 AM
Brian from Fluishing, Michigan

Three stories this week, "Hot Coffee," "The Media's Trial of Casey Anthony" and "News of the World Folds" demonstrate to me a total failure of the media business.

The editors/reporters of these stories would fail News Writing 101.

So its no surprise that the media is completely incapable of reporting complicated stories of societal consequence like the 'debt ceiling' the 'mortgage crisis' and why they don't even touch stories like Goldman Sachs' role in the downfall of the Greek economy.

On top of that lack of understanding, there is a powerful Murdoch-based yellow journalism running a 24-hour political network disguised as news.

The media business continues to fail miserably at a time when the public need access to credible information more than ever.

Jul. 09 2011 08:05 AM

Sat 09 JUL 2011

I remembered that she asked for only enough to pay her medical bills.

I remembered that the coffee was kept too hot to drink at the point of sale so that it it could be consumed after a commute-to-work period of 1 hour.

I did not remember that the cup collapsed when the lid was removed.

I'm glad she didn't get angry and return to the restaurant with her little friend or take a flame thrower to the restaurant. I'm glad she took them to court.

I wonder which source was responsible for most of the fictional story telling: Broadcast television or cable television ?

Jul. 09 2011 07:09 AM
Doug Brooks from Washington, D.C.

While the story complains about a one-sided public narrative on 'frivolous' law suits, it provides a one-sided, sycophantic take on a documentary that the director herself admits is biased. I'm sympathetic with many of the stories in the documentary, but I'd expect a more challenging discussion. This piece was little more than a slavish advertisement.

Please, we expect better from On the Media.

Jul. 09 2011 07:02 AM

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