Separating Fact from Fiction Over Hot Coffee and Tort Reform

A few months ago, HBO released Hot Coffee, a film by attorney and documentarian Susan Saladoff that sought to tell the truth about how tort reform legislation punishes innocent consumers. The documentary garnered much attention and critical acclaim, and therefore it is not surprising that tort reform proponents are seeking to discredit the film.

One such outspoken group is the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, also known as ILR. It released a new website in response to the popularity of Hot Coffee and labeled the film “propaganda.” However, it failed to explain how any of the factual evidence presented in the film was incorrect or misleading.

Let’s take a moment to ask who is ILR, and why is it pushing for tort reform? The ILR is a branch of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. This entity is an extremely powerful business lobby in Washington, and it is not part of the government, despite the governmental-sounding name. The main members of the group include oil companies, pharmaceutical companies, the auto industry and other large corporations.  Basically, corporate interests are funding the ILR, and they oppose tort reform because lawsuits brought by injured consumers hurt their bottom line – money.

The purpose of personal injury lawsuits is to compensate individuals for the harm and damage caused by negligence. Tort reform is large corporations’ attempt to minimize their liability to their own consumers by capping awards for non-economic damages. However, non-economic damages are extremely important because they are the best measure for punishing corporations and making them take notice when their products or actions injure innocent people. When a jury awards non-economic damages, it is sending a message to the corporation that it must change its product or behavior to prevent future harm to others.

If a business or product caused you injury and you wish to know more about your rights, tell us your story.

Dudek Law Firm, APC—San Diego personal injury attorney



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