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Susan Saladoff’s documentary Hot Coffee originally premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2011 before being released in June. The film’s title was derived from the infamous 1994 product liability lawsuit that then-79-year-old Stella Liebeck filed against McDonald’s after a cup of coffee she purchased from the fast food franchise caused third-degree burns and required two years of medical treatment when it was spilled on her lap. Hot Coffee addresses not only public misconceptions about that case, but about the concept of tort reform in general.

Naturally, the US Chamber of Commerce (USCC), the nation’s largest lobbying group that represents the interests of businesses and trade associations, have been seeking to discredit Saladoff and question the film’s validity ever since Hot Coffee was released.

Hot Coffee had screenings at nearly 20 different film festivals, received widespread praise and debuted on HBO. The network garnered 104 Emmy nominations in 2011, more than double the next closest network. Just two weeks later, a documentary partly funded by the USCC called InJustice debuted on a different network called ReelzChannel. In 2011, ReelzChannel earned 10 Emmy nominations, or one less than Comedy Central.

With InJustice utterly failing to earn even a fraction of the attention that Hot Coffee has commanded ever since its release last June, the USCC has now used one of its lobbying arms, the Institute for Legal Reform, to produce a six-part series of videos for the website The Institute is promoting the website through Google, Facebook and Twitter, often claiming to expose what Hot Coffee “got wrong” or “won’t tell you.”

Of course, three of the four so-called “legal experts” who appear in the videos are involved in representing corporate clients. And many of their complaints have little to do with facts so much as opinions, repeatedly referring to Hot Coffee as “propaganda” or complaining that it “plays on emotions.” Desperate times call for desperate measures, and with the USCC continuing to push tort reform measures throughout the nation, the lobbying group remains focused on discrediting Saladoff’s eye-opening documentary. Between 1998 and 2011, the USCC spent more than $785 million on lobbying efforts, more than triple the amount spent by the next highest group.

Hot Coffee called attention to the ways in which the USCC and the corporations it represents spin verdicts like Liebeck’s to mislead the public. Efforts like InJustice and are just further variations of that deliberate twisting of the facts, and we encourage everybody to see Saladoff’s documentary so they can see through these disingenuous USCC projects. One side seeks to protect our constitutional rights, while the other wants to strip them away. Everybody deserves to know what is truly at stake when we are talking about everyday Americans’ access to our courtrooms.

Wooten, Kimbrough & Normand, P.A. – Orlando personal injury lawyers

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