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Film screening and discussion to examine frivolous lawsuits

March 16, 2012

The Loyola University New Orleans College of Law presents an educational forum and screening of the documentary “Hot Coffee,” on Monday, March 19 at 6 p.m. in the College of Law, Room 405. It is free and open to the Loyola community. A panel discussion and Q-and-A session with Susan Saladoff, director and producer of “Hot Coffee,” will follow the screening.

“Hot Coffee” features Stella Liebeck, the Albuquerque woman who spilled coffee on herself in 1992 and sued McDonald’s, and explores how and why the case garnered so much media attention, who funded the effort and to what end. More than 15 years later, the McDonald’s coffee case is cited as a prime example of how citizens use “frivolous” lawsuits to take unfair advantage of America’s legal system.

“Hot Coffee” follows four people whose lives were devastated by the attacks on the courts and exposed the influence of corporate America on our civil justice system. Informative and entertaining, “Hot Coffee,” recently re-released on HBO, challenges viewers to reexamine long-held beliefs that winning lawsuits is easy and the legal system is like the lottery, leading to “jackpot justice.”

The film features in-depth interviews with Liebeck’s family; Lisa and Mike Gourley, who sued their doctor after their son was born with brain damage; Oliver Diaz, former Mississippi Supreme Court judge who spent three years off the bench fighting bribery charges; and Jamie Leigh Jones, a KBR/Halliburton employee, who was denied a jury trial against her employer after she alleged she was drugged and raped by male co-workers in Iraq at age 19. Best-selling author John Grisham, Sen. Al Franken, as well as other scholars, lawyers, judges and activists familiar with the cases and the civil justice system, are also interviewed as they advocate for the constitutional rights of individuals to access the courtroom.

“Hot Coffee,” which premiered on HBO in June 2011, was an official selection of more than three dozen film festivals in 2011 and 2012, including Sundance Film Festival, Silverdocs and Hot Docs; it won the Grand Jury prize for Best Documentary at the 2011 Seattle International Film Festival.

Saladoff spent 25 years practicing law in the civil justice system, representing injured victims of individual and corporate negligence. She stopped practicing law in 2009 to make “Hot Coffee,” her first feature-length film. She began her career as a public interest lawyer with the law firm of Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, now known as Public Justice, an organization that, for the last 25 years, has been at the forefront of keeping America's courthouse doors open to all. This event is made possible by a donation from College of Law alumnus and New Orleans attorney Morris Bart, J.D. ’78.

For more information, contact James Shields in the Office of Public Affairs at 504-861-5888 or jshields@loyno.edu.

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