HBO Films’ recent release of the documentary “Hot Coffee” is an eye opener about the United States civil legal system and the impact of tort “reform” that has been passed in various states. From caps on damages to limits on the ability to file a lawsuit in a court of law, Hot Coffee exposes how tort reforms are being passed under the guise of limiting “frivolous lawsuits.” But just what is a “frivolous lawsuit?” Your definition may be different after you watch this documentary.We all think we know about the McDonalds coffee case, right? Well, you might be surprised to find out that when 79 year old Stella Liebeck spilled the dangerously hot coffee on her groin within 7 seconds of its purchase, while seated in a parked car, and it was so scorching that she required numerous skin grafts and serious medical attention, all that she sought in her civil lawsuit was to be reimbursed for her outstanding medical bills â€“ the difference between what Medicare paid and what she had to pay out of pocket â€“ a few thousand dollars. A jury awarded her $2.9 million, $2.7 million of which was punitive damages because, as a juror reports, McDonalds’ behavior had been proven negligent and the jury wanted to send a message to the company that it needed to change its ways. The verdict represented just two days of coffee sales for McDonalds. (Ultimately, the amount was significantly reduced by the judge and the matter later settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.) In another case presented in this film, a woman unknowingly signed away her right to file a lawsuit by signing an employment contract to work oversees. It contained a binding arbitration clause. When she was brutally raped by a co-worker in employee housing, and her employer ignored her complaints, she was barred from filing a lawsuit. Our civil court system was designed to give the individual citizen direct access to the courts and the right to have his claims heard by a judge and jury of his peers, but protecting those rights are not always at the top of everyone’s agenda.I encourage you to watch Hot Coffee. http://hotcoffeethemovie.com/ You may be surprised to find out what tort reform means and the real life impacts such reforms may have on your life.