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‘Hot Coffee’ Documentary Director Appears at Law School Screening

April 06, 2012

Attorney and documentary director Susan Saladoff appeared at the law school on April 3, following a screening of her film, “Hot Coffee.”

The award-winning film, named for an infamous lawsuit over a cup of spilled McDonald’s coffee, argues forcefully that the nation’s civil justice system is under attack from a well-organized business community.

The film reveals details surrounding the lawsuit filed by 79-year-old Stella Liebeck, who won a $2.9 million jury award against McDonald’s, including footage of grotesque burns she sustained in the incident and her pursuit of justice through the courts only when the fast-food operator declined her request for help with related medical bills.

The 86-minute movies traces the path from Liebeck’s case to calls for tort reform that evolved into a movement to cap damages in tort cases, elect business-friendly judges in many states and promote mandatory arbitration as a means for consumers to settle disputes with businesses.

Saladoff, a Philadelphia native who practiced law for 25 years, said she made the film to help ordinary people understand what their rights are and the threats facing the civil justice system.

“I hope when enough people understand this, they’ll start asking the right questions,” said Saladoff, who was joined at the event by attorneys Robert Sachs of Shrager, Spivey & Sachs and Esther Berezofsky of Williams Cuker Berezofsky, who are board members of the Public Justice Foundation.

The event was sponsored by the American Constitution Society and Public Justice.