I hate being sick - my compulsions and drive wreak havoc on my emotions as I lay useless, unable to focus or muster enough energy to even change my fever-induced sweat soaked t-shirt.
About 10 p.m. Tuesday night I woke up with the most horrendous stomach pain I've felt in a long time. Remember those Pepto Bismal commercials with the black ugly bug wearing a kaiser helmet? That's what my stomach felt like. Then things started expelling from me like Linda Blair in the Exorcist. Except from opposite orifices.
So yesterday was spent mostly in the fetal position. I wondered what I could do - aha, watch a movie. I never watch movies because I can't sit still long enough to get through an entire film. Perhaps being too ill to do anything else I actually could watch a film! So I did - it had been on my assignment list for some time and having the stomach flu presented a perfect opportunity.
I watched "Hot Coffee; Is Justice Being Served?" by Susan Salodoff.
First, my literary disclaimer - the reason this movie was on my assignment list is because Ms. Salodoff and I are part of a panel discussion at the California Applicant Attorneys Association (CAAA) Winter Conference in Mission Hills on Friday January 27. The topic of the panel discussion is how big business is able to sway public opinion by controlling media outputs. My portion of the panel will review how Unicover Partners sucked a half billion dollars out of workers' compensation precipitating "reform" across America while injured workers and physicians were laid bare as sacrificial scapegoats to an unknowing (and largely uncaring) populace.
But Unicover Partners is not the point of this column. If you want to read more about Unicover go to my editorials many years ago on WorkCompCentral, or in Forbes Magazine.
What this column is about is "Hot Coffee" - this movie starts with a review of the infamous spilled coffee case of Stella Liebeck who received a jury award of $2.7 million against McDonalds for burns received when she spilled a fresh cup of coffee in her lap.
The case drew national attention as comics mocked it, politicians cited it, and the American public shook its head - how can a simple act of spilling coffee result in a $2.7 million judgment (by the way the jury verdict was reduced substantially by the judge and the parties subsequently entered into a confidential settlement before the case could reach the appellate level).
The amount of misinformation that was spun by McDonalds, the US business community and bought hook, line and sinker by the population turned the case from one of horrific third degree burns to this poor 91 year old woman's legs and thighs into a national campaign for "tort reform".
The movie takes a look at the cases of Stella Liebeck; of Colin Gourley - born with brain defects because of physician malpractice which could not be even be closely compensated because of damage caps; of Oliver Diaz - Mississippi Supreme Court justice targeted by Big Business with not only big advertising campaign but after election by two Federal indictments (both of which he prevailed against) that took him out of office for 3 years; of Jamie Liegh Jones - brutally drugged and gang raped by Haliburton employees while working in Iraq but whose employment agreement with an arbitration clause prevented adequate access to justice.
Each of these people, and their families, did not know that bad things would happen to them. Each of these people did not know that the justice system had been rigged against them through media control, political spending or the contractual waiver of 7th Amendment rights. Each of these people would have been perfectly content to live life as it is, without concern for our rights as American citizens except for the intervention of misfortune casting them into the nasty world of "tort reform" hysteria.
A more recent example of how we, as American citizens, don't take the time to understand the issues and make independent judgment is a friend of mine - a staunch right wing Republican who is anti-Obama and in particular anti-ObamaCare.
That is until her sister, recently laid off from work and whose husband's business closed due to the recession, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and because of the aforementioned misfortunes ended up with no health insurance. All of a sudden, ObamaCare's non-discrimination laws against pre-existing conditions is a God-send. Obama isn't so bad after all...
We're all busy people just trying to live our lives. As a consequence we rely on others to filter information that shapes our opinions. Too often we don't even do that! There's always at least two sides to every story. Don't accept at face value anything, particularly if it involves matters of great public policy, such as workers' compensation.workers compensation, work comp, injured worker