I heard an interesting story this morning on NPR about an upcoming documentary called “Hot Coffee.” It documents the facts surrounding a certain “frivolous lawsuit” that I’m sure we’re all familiar with. I’m sure you “know” what I’m talking about: Some lady was driving along, spilled her coffee, got some burns, sued McDonalds and was awarded Millions in a case of “jackpot justice.” There’s only one problem with that:
IT’S ALL BULLSHIT
Some of the FACTS about the case include:
1) She was, in fact, a PASSENGER in a PARKED car.
2) She received THIRD DEGREE BURNS. (Would you put something in your mouth hot enough to cause third degree burns to your LEGS?!)
3) McDonald's required franchises to serve coffee at 180 °F, which can cause a third-degree burn in under seven seconds.
4) From 1982 to 1992 the McDonald's had received over 700 reports of people burned by thier coffee, and had settled claims for more than $500,000. (Remember: A big part of tort is that you (a) KNOW about the problem, and (b) DO NOTHING to fix it. This is TEXTBOOK, people!)
5) She was incapacitated and underwent medical treatment for TWO YEARS.
6) In the end, she did not see MILLIONS of dollars - less than $600,000 actually, roughly $160,000 of which was just her own medical expense.
And the following is a FACT, but one who’s importance and relevance is a matter of DEBATE; one for the COURT to decide. (And thus: NOT a point of frivolity):
7) [McDonald’s] handed someone a liquid, that they prepared to a temperature that was hot enough to cause 3rd degree burns, in a container that was not strong enough, or with a lid steady enough, to contain it – the properties of which were specified by McDonalds. Think about that. Would YOU do that?! Not to someone you LIKED! (And remember: Better cup = More $$$!)
Now... I’m going to go out on a limb here, because I haven’t seen the film yet, and recommend that EVERYONE see this. And that you tell your friends about it. Because it brings up broader points about our society, and its system of justice, or the lack thereof. Let me ask you a question…
WHY does “everyone know” so much about this case that is complete bullshit? Why is everyone such an “expert” on this case despite mostly not knowing shit, and going almost entirely on misinformation?
Well… Do you remember that LIBERAL MEDIA we always hear about?
They’re the ones that origionally TOLD THE STORY. They're the one we were getting our fakts (not facts) from. Sure, they didn’t come right out and SAY it was a “frivolous law suit.” But the fakts presented were done so entirely from McDonald’s point of view.
Do you think that MIGHT have anything to do with the fact that for most of the past half-century, McDonalds was not only one of the largest corporations in the United States, but also one of the single largest sources of TELEVISION ADVIRTISING REVENUE? Think back to when you were a kid. How many times did you see Ronald McDonald on TV? (Mayor McCheese was always my favorite!) But hey: I’m sure the news media wasn’t being biased in their presentation of this story just because the it cast on of their corporate shareholder’s largest sources of income in a bad light. Don’t you agree?
Behold: Your LIBERAL media!
And this was almost a SIXTEEN YEARS AGO! This was 1994!
Do you know what DIDN’T exist in 1994?
The Fox News Channel, the Tea Party, House Speaker Newt Gingrich, President George W. Bush, a Republican Majority in the House, Glenn Beck’s radio program, Sean Hannity’s radio program, Ann Coulter’s bi-weekly column…
Yeah, I’m sure that our media hasn’t leaned any farther to the Right since 1994!
The bigger picture here is that when we complain about these so-called “frivolous lawsuits,” we are in fact promoting corporatism, taking the corporation’s side and voluntarily, even enthusiastically sacrificing our rights. Try reading the fine print on your phone bill or credit card statement some time. Do you see that little bit about “binding arbitration?” Do you know what this means?
It means that if you have any dispute with that company, you agree to binding arbitration where:
1) They pick the venue for the court.
2) They pick the judge.
3) They PAY for the judge.
4) The Judge is not required to provide ANY rational for his ruling. (!!!)
5) YOU HAVE NO RECOURSE OR RIGHT TO APPEAL.
And we sign more and more of this kind of fascist bullshit EVERY SINGLE DAY.
But hey, why should we complain? I mean: It’s not like you HAVE to have a cell phone. Or a credit card.
…or access to the internet.
…or the ability to buy a plane ticket.
…or the ability to rent a car.
…or the ability to build a credit history.
Yeah. That seems like a reasonable trade off: They make a profit. I have no power if they screw me. (Which, of course, NEVER HAPPENS!) And if I exercise my rights to OPT-OUT of having my rights taken away from me…?
I LOSE THAT MANY MORE OF MY RIGHTS!
And there is simply NO GOOD REASON we need to make that tradeoff!
It time to WAKE UP, America! The next time the media tells you about a “frivolous law suit?” Check to see if it’s against one of their sponsors. Whether or not it’s frivolous is a matter for the COURTS TO DECIDE. And plenty of these just get thrown out. Every day. It is not a matter for the media to decide and to use to influence public opinion on Tort Reform…
…which is just another Right Wing Code Word for taking away more of your rights as people in the name of protecting Corporations from having to PLAY BY THE RULES and OBEY THE LAW.
And remember, WHERE did I hear about this? On NPR: A PUBLIC station that does not rely on corporate sponsorship! Think about THAT the next time some Jack-Hole sends you another Right-Wing e-mail that begins, “Here’s a story the cowards in the main-stream media won’t tell you!” The only stories left untold are the ones the corporate owners and corporate sponsors don’t want you hear, or form your own opinion about.
So here’s a new rule: THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A FRIVOLOUS LAW SUIT.
Such judgments are entirely matters for the COURT to decide for themselves.
WHICH IS WHY WE FUCKING HAVE THEM!!!