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How “Tort Reform” Prevents Access to Justice


These days, you can scarcely mention McDonald’s coffee without conjuring memories of the “Hot Coffee Case.” Some 15 years ago, this lawsuit was held up as an example of a frivolous claim – someone taking advantage of circumstances to make a quick buck. But if you look at the facts, you will realize that Stella Liebeck, an elderly New Mexico woman, was very seriously injured and that it was McDonald’s and the rest of corporate America that won in the end.

The case of Ms. Liebeck, who suffered severe third degree burns from the scalding hot 190-degree coffee, is just one instance of corporations and insurance companies exploiting the media to turn public sentiment against innocent victims. People who have been injured, through no fault of their own, have been made out to represent all that is wrong with the justice system. This is simply untrue: seeking fair and reasonable compensation in court is commendable. Indeed, it is the foundation of our civil justice system.

In the wake of the “Hot Coffee Case,” states across the country began passing “tort reform” laws. These laws are aimed at narrowing the types of cases that can brought to court, or limit the amount of damages that can be awarded. The practical effect of these laws has been to deny access to justice for people who have been badly hurt by the carelessness of others.

On June 27, the movie Hot Coffee will debut on HBO. This moving documentary explains in detail how the law has been warped to favor large companies at the expense of individuals. For more information, follow Hot Coffee on Facebook and Twitter.


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  1. Cilla Mitchell says:
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    Tort Reform is a legal weapon used in Texas against Texans.

    When there are laws on the books preventing the common man from getting accountability, no telling what will happen.

    Providing a link to a video showing how Tort Reform is working out in Texas, or not.

    Or, Google Cleveland Mark Mitchell, then click on youtube.

    Thank you for your time,

    Cilla Mitchell

    A Texas nurse and vet

  2. Cilla Mitchell says:
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    The link to the above comment is

    Thank you again,

    Cilla Mitchell

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    Thanks for posting this great article. You are correct about tort reform. It limits access to justice to those individuals harmed by others for the sole purpose of Wall Street greed. I hope everyone watches Hot Coffee, it was one of the best documentaries I have seen in a long time.