Documentary Review: HBO's Hot Coffee

DALLAS, TX - APRIL 12:  Karl Rove, former Depu...

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It was as an undergrad that I was arguing in favor of tort reform in a constitutional law class when one of my peers provided me with some information about lawsuits within the healthcare industry. I somewhat moderated my views after doing more research on the topic.

Lately, I have found myself more and more drawn to media coverage of financial issues. It would only be a logical conclusion for my new found love of economics and theology. Imagine my surprise on Twitter today when Michael Moore announced on Twitter there would be a documentary on HBO entitled, HOT COFFEE, a reference to the lawsuit against McDonald’s for making their coffee too hot. My interest was picqued.

Usually when it comes to any documentary, the viewpoint will be lopsided, and that is exactly what HOT COFFEE. As Doug said on facebook, it was like a 90 minute long trial lawyer advertisement. Now, please keep in mind, there is nothing wrong with trial lawyers, and I am okay with law suits; I am working out what the Gospel means for our current culture’s interest in suing. It would be impossible for the documentary to cover every lawsuit, but as I learned more details about the McDonald’s practices before the lawsuit with the coffee, and with the gruesome pictures that were shown about the injuries incurred, I kinda changed my mind on that particular law suit. But outside that one, as well as the arbitration a rape victim was compelled to go to with Haliburton, I remain convinced of tort reform within certain limits.

Of course, guest appearances by George W. Bush and Karl Rove were made, and they weren’t flattering, giving away the blatant partisan biases of this doc.  Overall, I would still recommend this documentary if not to get a few more facts about the power of corporation in the U.S.

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0 thoughts on “Documentary Review: HBO's Hot Coffee

  1. George

    Why would you look to the Gospels to know what is the right thing to do in regards to Tort reform? Don’t wait to find an answer in there. You only need a working moral compass. Anyone who evaulates the anecdotal cases and stories about people who have been hurt by arbitrary caps (that are only intended to protect businesses & limit their liabilities when they inflict harm to their customers) will draw the appropiate conclusion.

    I don’t understand this need to have the Gospels answer every conceivable scenario in modern times. But if you really must use it as a blueprint to base your decisions off of, then you would no doubt be lead to the conclusions that victims must be helped and be made whole after being wronged.

    Instead of trying to politicize the documentary by pointing out a supposed partisan bias. If the all the recent historical evidence points to the fact that republicans are the ones mostly in charge of pushing tort reform and even running on that platform (Bush II) as a method of attracting more campaign financing from corporations. That isn’t partisan bias as much as it is pointing out facts. So yes, you do see faces like Karl Rover appear here as persons pulling the strings behind tort reform to protect businesses. That’s just acknowledging reality. Why white wash it?

    It’s amazing how effectively the Hot Coffee lawsuit was leveraged and sensationalized by corporations to paint a disingeuous picture about how all lawsuits are frivelous. This should bother every breathing American.

    Reply
    1. Rod of Alexandria Post author

      George,

      “Why would you look to the Gospels to know what is the right thing to do in regards to Tort reform?”

      Easy question to answer; because I wish to be a faithful Christian, good sir. And as Christians, we know nothing about politics, ethics,economics, or anything apart from the Triune God. Both Jesus and the apostle Paul talk about lawsuits. I think I should take their ancient wisdom into consideration before any type of modern propaganda, left or right

      “Why white wash it?”

      Not trying to white wash anything. Just pointing out the obvious partisan bias in the film. No mention of conservative Democrats who support tort reform. It was just the blame the GOP game.

      Reply
  2. George

    I don’t want to get into a religious debate, but the ambiguity of the texts leaves too much room for interpretation. Anyone can make a case for their own causes using the Gospels as a basis. I’ve seen it done too many times. Instead, I prefer to take the approach of examining issues based on their ethical implications rather than what an antiquated text may say.

    As a Christian, I’ve realized that are instances where if one were to seek guidance from biblical texts they would be engaging in actions that would be considered unethical or illegal by today’s standards. As I said, make decisions based on ethical standards and common sense.

    Yes, I wouldnt’ be surprised if there were some democrats in the pockets of major corporations & are pro tort-reform. But for the most part, A pro tort-reform position is generally a republican position (Obama was booed by the AMA when he made an anti tort reform statement while presumably speaking in front of doctors, and Clinton vetoed a bill that would have severely removed power from the American people). Tort Reform is generally a Republican cause, and Bush made a case of running on that platform. Again, are you overlooking this? If there was a film about the abortion debate and it stated that Pro Choice is generally a democratic position, you wouldn’t say it was Partisan right? It’s just highlighting a reality.

    The most important point made in the film is that Tort Reform will hurt those who DON’T have frivelous lawsuits. There is no distinction in any tort reform law that protects those who have legitimate lawsuits. Real reform would come from legislation that protects those that have legitimate cases, and shuts down frivelous lawsuits. A court should decide if a case was frivelous or not, not mandatory arbitration that unevens the playing field against corporations/doctors with deep pockets.

    I always put myself in the shoes of the victim. You should do the same. If a doctor botched a medical procedure on you due to utter negligence, and you sought compensation for the damages. I am sure you would not be happy with a capped payout irrespective of the damages you sustained. You don’t need to consult a bible to know that wrongs must be righted.

    Reply
    1. Rod of Alexandria Post author

      “I don’t want to get into a religious debate, but the ambiguity of the texts leaves too much room for interpretation.”

      Well, fortunately, you are on a theology blog, so I guess religious debates is the thing we do here. I would have to see for myself what “room” there is for interpretation when it comes to these sorts of things.

      “As I said, make decisions based on ethical standards and common sense.”

      That’s the funny thing. I just don’t believe in what you call “common sense” or others call it reason or “moral compasses”; this sort of reasoning ignores the facts that we have our biases and that we are deeply influenced by our cultures. What makes sense in one culture will not in the other. For example, we do not think it is the norm to carry water jars on our heads, but in other countries, they do.

      I examine issues on a case by case basis. The guiding principle I choose to follow is one of non-violence, and societies with persons living in mutuality. Right now, while I see the dangers of a tort reform that favors “big corporations,” I also see dangers of giving too much powers over to trial lawyers.

      “Tort Reform is generally a Republican cause, and Bush made a case of running on that platform. Again, are you overlooking this?”

      Nope, not at all. In fact I remember quite clearly the 2004 Presidential campaign with “Flush the Johns” and the anti-trial lawyer rhetoric. I am trying to see both sides here.

      “A court should decide if a case was frivelous or not, not mandatory arbitration that unevens the playing field against corporations/doctors with deep pockets.”

      I would agree, our federalist system depends on the very notion of the separation of powers. But how to protect society from frivelous lawsuits as well as protect victims, is a work in progress.

      “You don’t need to consult a bible to know that wrongs must be righted.”

      Well, I don’t see ethics in the first place as to what to see as right or wrong, but to no give credit to human beings who make such claims, like “common sense.” Such an approach to ethics, morality, politics, economics, etc., places human beings at the center of existence, when as Christians, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer argues, Christ is our existence, put simply. Scripture points us to relying on Christ for discernment; because of our fallenness/sinfulness, we really don’t have a good grasp on right or wrong. That is why we need something outside of our system to judge, to criticize us. Christians refer to that judge as Christ.

      Reply
  3. Pingback: On Tort Reform & Lawsuits: Jesus & Paul | Political Jesus

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