Do you remember hearing about the woman who spilled McDonald's coffee on herself and then sued the company, winning 2.8 million dollars?
Did you know that the woman was 79 years old at the time?
Did you know that the coffee in the average home brewer is between 142 and 162 degrees, and that McDonald's required the temperature of their coffee to be held around 187 degrees (probably because coffee lasts longer at a higher temperature)?
Did you know that the structural integrity of Styrofoam is compromised at that temperature?
Did you know that when the woman placed the cup between her legs and peeled off the lid, the whole cup collapsed?
Did you know that she suffered 3rd degree burns on over 16% of her body from the spill?
Did you know that she had skin grafts due to the severity of the burns?
Did you know that after she realized that Medicare was only going to cover 80% of her medical bills, her daughter and son-in-law wrote a letter to McDonald's asking them to cover her remaining bill and to check the temperature of their coffee?
Did you know that, with left-over medical bills already in excess of $10,000, McDonald's came back with an offer of $800?
Did you know that it was McDonald's who then decided to go to jury trial after the woman and her family turned down their offer?
Did you know that McDonald's was not interested in settling for $50,000, but the family was?
Did you know that, up until then, New Mexico had never ruled in favor of the plaintiff in a product liability suit?
Did you know that, during trial, McDonald's brought up the fact that 700 people had been scalded by their coffee over a ten year period -- over one person a week -- to show that it was an insignificant occurrence?
Did you know that it was the judge who recommended to the jury to consider punitive damages because he was so incensed with what had gone on with McDonald's?
Did you know that the jury's award of 2.8 million was two days of coffee sales for McDonald's?
Did you know that, in the final decision, the judge reduced the amount of punitive damage to "three times compensatory"?
Did you know that corporations went on to use this "frivolous" incident to promote tort reform, which essentially restricts peoples rights to go to court and bring a lawsuit? ("tort reform is a term drummed up by some of the advertising people for the business sector." [...] "Ralph Nader calls it 'tort deform.' So, I guess reform is in the eyes of the beholder.")
Did you know that during the congressional hearings on tort reform, the McDonald's case was a primary reference? (ie, "[E]verybody knows the McDonald’s coffee case, therefore we need tort reform." [...] "It became the poster child for what’s wrong with people going to court and suing.")
"There has been a huge public relations campaign over the last 25 years to convince the public that we have too many frivolous lawsuits, that we have out-of-control juries, that we need to change our civil justice system, which is our third branch of government, where an average person can go head-to-head with the rich and powerful, with corporations. And people have a completely distorted view of our civil justice system because of this public relations campaign."
AMY GOODMAN: And yet, there was a very different reaction all over this country. I want to play again what we played in the billboard. I mean, you had every comic making fun.
CHARLES ALLEN: Absolutely.
AMY GOODMAN: Made famous on Seinfeld.
JUDY LIEBECK: Still.
AMY GOODMAN: On Letterman.
JUDY LIEBECK: Still. Toby Keith has a song out right now called the "American Ride." And it says, "Spill a cup of coffee, make a million dollars."
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to the clip.
CRAIG FERGUSON: Every minute they waste on this frivolous lawsuit, they’re not able to waste on other frivolous lawsuits, like, "Ooh, my coffee was too hot!" It’s coffee!
MAN ON THE STREET 3: The woman, she purchased the coffee, and she spilled it on herself. I mean, it wasn’t like the McDonald’s employee took the coffee, threw it on her. Now, that, in itself, then she would have had a lawsuit.
WOMAN ON THE STREET 2: It’s just people just are greedy and want money, and they’ll do anything to get it.
Did you know that 19 year old Jamie Leigh Jones, who went to work for Halliburton in their IT department, was asked to sign an employment contract wherein there was embedded a mandatory arbitration clause?
Did you know that these clauses are in almost all of our contracts now? (Cell phone contracts, credit card contracts, car loans, mortgages, even some doctors are putting them in their consent clauses.)
Do you know what a mandatory arbitration clause is?
"[T]hey are literally contracts where people are asked to sign—oftentimes they don't even have a choice to sign. If you get a credit card, for example, and you use it, you’ve agreed to mandatory arbitration. People don't even know what it means, because it's something—no dispute has happened yet. But if you have agreed to that and then you have a dispute with the company or the entity, you have waived your right to the court system. And people say, "Well, why should I care about that?" Well, why you should care is because the company that you are having the dispute with, once you’ve signed that, they pick the decision maker, the arbitrator, they pay for the decision maker, the decision maker doesn't have to give a reason why they've come up with the decision, it's completely secretive, and there's no right to appeal. And what everyone is doing these days is they are literally voluntarily giving up their right to access the court system, and they don't even know they're doing it."
Did you know that Jamie Leigh Jones was drugged and gang-raped by several of her fellow employees at KBR, Inc. (a subsidiary of Halliburton, and formerly Kellogg Brown & Root)? [X]
Did you know that she was then confined (by armed guards) to a shipping container under the orders of her employer? (She was removed from KBR custody when US Agents were dispatched from the US Embassy in Baghdad and rescued her.)
Did you know that Jones' account was confirmed by U.S. Army physician Jodi Schultz, but the rape kit and evidence Schultz gave to KBR/Halliburton security forces subsequently disappeared? ("It was recovered two years later, but missing crucial photographs and notes.")
Did you know that when Jones filed a civil lawsuit against KBR, Halliburton, and Charles Boartz (the alleged known rapist), KBR requested a private arbitration, claiming that it was required by her employment contract?
Fortunately, on September 15, 2009, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans "ruled Jamie Leigh Jones' federal lawsuit against KBR and several affiliates can be tried in open court."
"On January 19, 2010, KBR petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the 5th Circuit decision allowing Jones to bring her case in a civil court rather than in arbitration." (Click HERE to read why the US Department of Justice has not brought criminal charges against the alleged assailants.)
"Jones testified before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on October 7, 2009, concerning Senator Al Franken's amendment to the FY 2010 Defense Appropriations Bill, to restrict contracts with companies which use mandatory arbitration in their employment contracts. This measure was passed by the Senate, prompted by her case."
Except for the basic narrative of Jamie Leigh Jones' story, I learned all of this from today's Democracy Now! broadcast (the source of all the non-linked quotes). The details of the McDonald's coffee-spill-story, as well as the implications of the case, have been given recent attention by a documentary called Hot Coffee, which premiered this week at the Sundance film festival.
For an example of how corporations are starting to blatantly infiltrate and affect the judiciary, see the comments section.