The McDonald’s scalding coffee case received lots of media attention a few years ago, but what Massachusetts injury victims should know is that a lot of the “news” was false and misleading. In the movie Hot Coffee, filmmaker Susan Saladoff “investigates the civil justice system” pointing out how “[b]ig business has brewed an insidious concoction of manipulation and lies to protect its interests, and media lapdogs have stirred the cup.” Massachusetts jury trials results reflect that trend. In a blog article we posted on June 21, 2010, we pointed out that “half of the counties had zero plaintiff verdicts in 2009.” Further, one judge, who calculated some statistics of his own, found that only 16 of 151 personal injury trials resulted in a jury verdict higher than the pre-trial offer.
The case is a wonderful example of the media distorting reality. For example, the victim in the case tried to settle for her medical bills for a serious injury. Further, the coffee machine was set significantly hotter than recommended.
Big business, and big insurance companies, through the use of advertisements and misleading the media (which is a big business) have folks convinced that a woman sued simply for a minor burn. They have folks convinced that there is a crisis and that juries have run amuck. The realities, such as in the McDonald’s coffee case, are different from the perceptions. Without getting into all of them here, it is worth a start to see the movie Hot Coffee, just purchased by HBO; a first step, perhaps, in removing the current perception of how the civil justice system is working.