HBO’s documentary, Hot Coffee, which premiered on June 27, 2011 is an inside look at the famous McDonald’s hot coffee lawsuit in 1994, and how the media portrayed the facts of the case to the public. Stella Liebeck filed the product liability lawsuit after she was burned heavily and severely from a cup of hot coffee from a McDonalds drive-through. The case was notorious for being a frivolous lawsuit, with ABC News on record as calling it “the poster child of excessive lawsuits.”
The HBO documentary takes a deeper look at the facts of the case and how it actually happened. Liebeck did not suffer the reported “minor injury.” She had third degree burns covering 6% of her body that required two years of medical treatment. McDonald’s originally refused to settle the case—Liebeck’s medical bills totaled over $10,000 at the time she sought settlement, her future medical expenses were approximately $2,500 and her lost income was $5,000. This totals to about $18,000, and she was seeking a $20,000 settlement. That certainly does not make a lawsuit “frivolous.” A jury later awarded Liebeck $200,000 and the judge forced McDonalds to pay an extra $480,000 in punitive damages.
Hot Coffee takes an inside look at Liebock and the process she went through, as well as how it was portrayed to the public. It is definitely worth watching. Watch a trailer of the documentary here, and for a review of the movie, click here.