‘Hot Coffee’ brings tort reform quandaries to big screen

Most of us remember Morgan Spurlock taking on McDonald’s in the 2004 documentary/human nutrition endurance test Super Size Me.

Well, get ready for another shot of Mickey D’s making it to the silver screen.

But this time around, the Golden Arches is examined as the catalyst for civil justice gown wrong. And if Hot Coffee is as successful as Super Size Me was among the masses when released into theaters, there’s gonna be trouble.

The film makes its premiere at next week’s Sundance Film Festival. Here’s the skinny from its Sundance site, where there’s also a trailer:

For many Americans, the famous McDonald’s coffee case has become emblematic of the frivolous lawsuits that clog our courts and stall our justice system. Or is that exactly what McDonald’s wants us to think?

Enter intrepid filmmaker Susan Saladoff. Using the now-infamous legal battle over a spilled cup of coffee as a springboard into investigating our civil-justice system, Saladoff exposes the way corporations have spent millions distorting this case to promote tort reform. Big business has brewed an insidious concoction of manipulation and lies to protect its interests, and media lapdogs have stirred the cup.

Following four people whose lives have been devastated by their inability to access the courts, this searing documentary unearths the sad truth that most of our beliefs about the civil-justice system have been shaped or bought by corporate America.

Informative, entertaining, and a stirring call to action, Hot Coffee will make your blood boil.

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Malpractice damage caps touted in health care reform debate

Medical malpractice costs are getting more attention in the health care debate, despite studies that show capping jury awards in malpractice cases would do little to lower health care spending, according to a story by Maureen Groppe of Gannett’s Washington Bureau, published in this morning’s Lansing State Journal.

Thirty-six states – including Michigan – already limit the compensation patients can get for medical errors.

But the issue is popular with doctors and Republicans and has been cited as a way to bring Democrats and Republicans closer on health care reform.

“I have a real difficult time understanding why liability reform is not on the table,” said Dr. Kenneth Elmassian, an anesthesiologist from the East Lansing area who is on the board of the Michigan State Medical Society. “As a practitioner, I know people do practice defensive medicine … just to kind of cover yourself.”

Republican lawmakers have long touted federal tort reform as way to bring down health care costs.

“For too long, trial attorneys have looked at doctors as ATM machines and have filed countless frivolous lawsuits,” said Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township. …

Studies show that limiting such awards slows growth in the cost of medical malpractice insurance for doctors.

But lower malpractice insurance rates would have a “very modest” impact on doctors’ fees and would reduce total health care spending by less than 0.2 percent, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

Damage cap trims $15M dental malpractice verdict

Dental malpractice attorney Robert Gittleman recently obtained a $15 million verdict for one of his clients from an Oakland County jury.

But under a statutory damage cap, his client will get only $500,000.

“Ludicrous and unfair,” says Gittleman.

“It’s not tort reform, it’s tort deform,” Gittleman railed in a report posted on hometownlife.com.