Documentary serves as real ‘wake-up call’

Published 12:04 pm Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I decided to watch the documentary “Hot Coffee,” on HBO when it aired on June 27th. One of the segments was about Stella Liebeck’s case against McDonald’s for spilling 190 degree coffee in her lap, causing third-degree burns. After laughing at all of the hot crotch jokes over the years, I saw a different side of this case. When Stella presented her medical bills to McDonald’s, she was only offered $800.

Another segment featured a young man named Colin who was severely brain damaged by the delivery doctor’s negligence. The jury awarded enough money for lifetime care, but Nebraska law imposes a cap on damages, and the family had the amount awarded cut by three-fourths. Taxpayers in Nebraska will now foot the bill to take care of Colin.

I don’t advocate declaring war on corporate America, nor do I believe outrageous damages should be the rule. Legitimate awards for gross negligence don’t always amount to “jackpot justice.” Watching “Hot Coffee” was a wake-up call for me. It helped me see that our courts are simply a protection given to every American under the 7th Amendment. I don’t consider my rights “frivolous” and you shouldn’t either.

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Jason Smith

New Hope