(415) 332-4262

Mesothelioma Law Firm Supports Upcoming Release of Hot Coffee

August 23, 2011

Clapper, Patti, Schweizer and Mason is a law firm that has been representing clients suffering from mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure for over 30 years. CPSM is committed to making sure their clients have a fair chance to receive justice through the legal system. The attorneys at CPSM are dedicated to fighting for the rights of those who have been injured due to the negligence and misconduct of large asbestos manufacturers and distributors.

In light of this, CPSM fully supports the soon to be released DVD of Hot Coffee, a documentary feature film by Susan Saladoff.    Both Saladoff and CPSM are committed to making sure people have fair “access to the court system, the one and only place where an average citizen can go toe to toe with those with money and power and still have a shot at justice.” (Hot Coffee)

In Saladoff's documentary feature film, the director challenges viewers to think about the civil justice system and people’s ability to get justice through access to the courts. She exposes how campaigns led by the media, government, and ‘big money’ work to create limitations and insurmountable challenges for the average Joe to seek redress through the legal system when wrongfully injured at the hands of corporate America.

Hot Coffee, now airing on HBO Summer Documentary Series with DVD’s available for purchase starting November 1, 2011, highlights the infamous story of Stella Liebeck, the elderly woman from Albuquerque who was severely burned when a cup of McDonald’s coffee spilled in her lap. She was then awarded 2.86 million in punitive damages, an award that was mocked publicly by big business and media globally in efforts to portray that tort reform was needed to avoid such “frivolous lawsuits” from occurring.    

What many don’t know is that from the beginning, Stella was only asking McDonald’s to pay the difference between her medical costs and what was not covered by her Medi-Cal insurance. McDonald’s refused. According to legal records from the Lectric Law Library, Stella’s was unable to cover her medical expenses on her annual income as a sales clerk of only $5000, so she sought to settle a claim with McDonald’s for $20,000. Stella was 79 years old at the time, and the 3rd degree burns were so severe that it required skin grafting to over 6% of her body and additional treatments. When McDonald’s refused to pay, Stella filed a product liability lawsuit (Liebeck v. McDonald's Restaurants, P.T.S., Inc., No. D-202 CV-93-02419, 1995 WL 360309 (Bernalillo County, N.M. Dist. Ct. August 18, 1994)) claiming that the coffee presented an unreasonable risk of injury.

Although McDonalds tried to argue otherwise, the facts showed that prior to Stella’s incident there were over 700 previous burn cases reported to McDonalds over a ten year period- clearly showing that the franchise was well aware of the danger of their coffee temperatures. McDonalds had a policy to sell their coffee at a minimum of 185 degrees (hot enough to cause serious burns in seconds.) McDonalds argued that they had strengthened their coffee cups and put a warning on them and that they should not be held responsible if burns were caused by external forces. The jury, however, found that McDonald’s was 80% at fault and awarded Stella $160,000 for her injuries and an additional $2.7 million in punitive damages. This judgment was later purported to be reduced to $480,000 by the trial court, although the final settlement remains undisclosed to the public.

This case, and all the press about “frivolous lawsuits”, is very similar to the bad, inaccurate press that occurs when large settlements for mesothelioma lawsuits are awarded. Like in the case with McDonalds, asbestos companies knew of the dangers of exposure to asbestos from as early as the 1930's and yet failed to give adequate, if any, protection, warning or training to those most at risk (http://www.ewg.org/sites/asbestos/facts/fact3.php). Many of those exposed were hard workers, loyal employees, and military servicemen who later developed fatal asbestos cancer. Like Stella, they had no way of knowing the risk they were taking. And many, in their later years in life, die from a disease that could have easily been prevented.

Clapper, Patti, Schweizer and Mason (CPSM) has dedicated more than 30 years to taking on the largest, most powerful corporations and manufacturers who knew that exposure to asbestos caused serious injuries and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. CPSM has compiled massive evidence that shows that not only did asbestos manufacturers and large companies fail to provide warning or protection, they deliberately concealed the fact that asbestos kills from workers and the public.

Now CPSM supports the fall release of Hot Coffee and all endeavors by director Saladoff. Join CPSM in voicing your opinion against restricting liability for corporations that cause harm and death due to negligence. To learn more about the issues at stake, purchase a DVD of Hot Coffee and stay informed of any actions you can take to protect the individual's right to justice through access to the courts.