Occupy Wall Street and the lesson I learned from Stella Liebeck

Do you remember the case of the woman who spilled hot McDonald’s coffee in her lap and was awarded close to 3 million dollars by a jury?

What do you remember about it?

Do you remember everyone talking about what a scam it was and how this was the shining example of tort reform and legal system abuse?

I thought that to be accurate because everything I saw or heard about it backed up that opinion. Major media even reported on it but with incorrect facts.

This movie is an eye-opener, but also one that shows how the deck is stacked against us. http://hotcoffeethemovie.com/

Then I started watching the documentary Hot Coffee, a must-see, which reviews and analyzes the facts of the case. The key word here being “facts.”

Remember, truth does not equal fact. And in this case there is what people perceive to be the “truth” and there are the facts.

Some of the facts: Stella Liebeck, 79, wasn’t driving the car – she was in the passenger seat, parked, when she opened the lid of her coffee and spilled it in her lap, suffering burns so severe that even I, a long-time guest of hospitals, couldn’t look at them when I replayed the segment on HBO GO. Burns so severe Mrs. Liebeck needed skin grafts.

How could I have been so wrong? How could I have joked that the case represented the evils of large jury awards?

And it made me wonder what else I think I know now to be “true,” but is not “factual.”

And the movie in its entirety reminded me that there is a large group of powerful people, media outlet owners, businesses, organizations, and the government officials they promote and purchase, who will stop at nothing to strip away the rights of the common man and woman in this country while they tap our wallets and fatten theirs.

I know I may sound like a conspiracy nut, but if it feels like it’s harder to get by these days because we’re paying for more of everything and wondering why our taxes don’t cover the expenses of this country. Well, it’s not our imagination. Big business continues to manipulate the system to pay less.

These powerful people have done a masterful job of imposing their will on us while we work our asses off to earn a living because companies won’t hire more people, telling us we have to “do more with less” during these tough times. And we do it because we have no choice. There are fewer jobs, which helps keep productivity high.

And that’s why the Occupy Wall Street movement is so important. It’s not about money, it’s about exposing corrupt power – the powerful who set a direction for the country that favors the rich and big business.

But the power-hungry have pushed people too far, grabbed too much of the pie and imposed their will to the point we finally looked up from our iPads to realize we had fewer rights than we did yesterday and the truth they promised was best for us, was not best for us. It was best for them.

Which brings me back to Liebeck v. McDonalds Restaurants. How is it possible any of us condemned and made fun of a 79-year-old woman with disfiguring burns and backed a large corporation that heated its coffee water to 180 to 190 degrees and could have settled for pennies before going to trial?

Was it by accident that the facts of the case got twisted and communicated to portray an elderly woman as the villain and a corporation as the victim? Or was there a greater force at work dropping incorrect facts in the wind?

It makes me wonder what other truths are getting distorted in this country by those in power and those who control the media.

I’ll remember the lesson I learned from the case of Stella Liebeck when I hear and read the truth the rich and powerful feed us as to why they are the victims, and how unions and the poor, the tired, the hungry and the sick are really at fault.

8 thoughts on “Occupy Wall Street and the lesson I learned from Stella Liebeck

  1. I remember clearly the day I realized I should never believe the media.

    My parents good friends had three children, 17, 13 and 9. The 17 year old was driving his brother and sister home from school, and a drunk driver ran a stop sign and killed the oldest boy (driver) and youngest girl (9).

    Their father was a fireman and was called out to the scene as a rescue operation. When he arrived, he didn’t recognize the car it was so mangled. It wasn’t until he got in there and saw the passengers he realized it was his children. Unimaginable.

    Anyway, the newspapers reported that the 17 year old was drunk and speeding and ran the sign (in fact it was the OTHER driver who was drunk and speeding and ran the sign. A father of one who had gone for a few drinks after work). It was such a terrible thing for the family to lose two of their children and then have to defend the honor of their eldest son from all the gossip that he was at fault.

    What a disgrace that a paper could get the story so wrong and add to a families already-overwhelming grief through basic negligence of fact-checking.

    Then bring in the powerful forces of the media conglomerates as you say. They have the voice, they have the money and their influence is all-encompassing. Oh, and lets face it, all two-often they are untrustworthy. I didn’t know the poor woman had such terrible burns. I had seen the story when I was in the US and assumed, like most people, she was after money. How terrible of me. How terrible of the media. How terrible of the fast-food corporation to not show integrity in this situation.

    And yet, how typical.

    Thanks for the thought provoking post, refreshing my memory that everything you read and hear and see on the news, is just that. Dig a little deeper if you really want the facts.

    • Karyn,

      How are you not doing the post a day? You’re a writing machine.

      That’s a terrible story. How horrible. Thanks for sharing it, I think. No really, thanks for sharing it. Today, I hate the media. Or the media that mess up stories.


  2. Very interesting, I had no idea this movie existed. I will definitely have to check it out.

    And Karyn: wow, what a horrible, horrible tragedy your family’s friend has endured. Truly unimaginable.

    Thanks for making me think, UC.

    • Liz,

      It’s a good movie. Saw a good comedy last night, which is more positive, that you might like. “The Trip.” Not sure why I’m telling you this. Just letting my friends know.


      • You don’t have to have a reason to tell me about a movie thumbs up. I will gladly take any movie suggestions – seeing as how nearly every movie I choose Chris gives me the really-liz-you-have-got-to-be-kidding-look. I will have to netflix “The Trip”. Thanks!

      • Liz,

        I really liked “The Trip.” I had low expectations and was pleasantly surprised. My wife and I watched Crazy, Stupid, Love last week and liked it. She stayed awake, which is a thumbs up for the movie from her.


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