Earlier this year our Chicago birth injury lawyers called on readers to take the time to watch the documentary “Hot Coffee.” The film was created by a personal injury lawyer who stopped practicing in order to create the documentary setting the record straight on many misguided beliefs about the civil justice system. The film was aired on HBO earlier this year, and has had a few repeated showings since. In addition, it is now available in a wide variety of other settings for those who have not yet had a chance to view it. This week a contributing article in the Digital Journal made another call urging everyone to take the time to watch the film. Of course those who currently believe that tort reform efforts are necessary may have their mind changed by the arguments laid out. But it is important for patient rights advocates to check out the film as well. It will help arm advocates with new information that may be helpful to share when having discussions about these topics with friends and family members.
The new article explains how the central story in the film is that of the well known McDonalds lawsuit where an elderly woman sued the company after suffering severe burns when coffee as hot as a car radiator spilled onto the lap. Her injuries were so severe that she ultimately required several skin grafts. Her life was never the same after the injury. The company was well aware of the risks posed by their hotter-than-normal coffee temperature, as hundreds of other patrons had also been injured. However, the company had not taken even simple steps to make the product safer. Eventually, the woman’s lawsuit resulted in punitive damages being awarded for the company’s failure to take reasonable steps in the face of a known risk. While the media portrayed the lawsuit as an example of something frivolous, the award amount was only in place to force the company to act reasonably.
Hot Coffee also shares other injury lawsuit stories, including one family that filed a birth injury lawsuit after one of their twins was injured as a result of their doctor’s negligence during the birth. The movie explains how the family hired a birth injury lawyer who took the case to trial. After the impartial jury heard all of the evidence in the case, they decided that the doctor was clearly negligent. They then heard even more evidence from both sides on the total award that the injury would cost the family over the life of the child. The jury awarded what they thought was a fair amount. However, unknown to the jury, a damage cap law in the state, reduced the award considerably. As a result the family has no idea how they will find the money to pay for the boy’s needed care. At the end of the day, it will likely be the taxpayers who are forced to provide the necessary care. This remains a hidden reality about damage caps. At the end of the day, the caps do not make it any less expensive for families to recover from the harm caused by the negligent party. The only thing that the caps do is make life tougher for the victims and shift costs away from the party who actually caused harm and onto the taxpayers.
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