Law is more fun in movies
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Most people associate the Liebeck v. McDonald’s case, better known as “the hot coffee lawsuit,” with the very worst of our justice system: namely, frivolous actions brought by greedy plaintiffs with the hopes of winning the lawsuit lottery.
It is commonly believed that the plaintiff in Liebeck was a young woman who decided to sue Mickey D’s because while driving, she spilled her drive-thru coffee all over herself and sustained minor burns. This woman is usually not thought of as the sharpest tool in the shed, because she needed to be warned that her hot coffee would actually be hot and would burn her.
This woman was somehow able to convince a jury of her peers (who apparently weren’t that intelligent, either) that she didn’t realize her hot coffee would be so hot, so they decided to award her with a $2.7 million verdict.
This is the story that most people believe when they think of the hot coffee lawsuit, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. And thanks to this widespread misconception, Hot Coffee, a documentary film directed by Susan Saladoff, explains how corporations were able to promote the “evils” of tort reform….
The courtroom lends itself to dramatization. A trial has a natural story arc: The adversarial system makes for a clear conflict between characters. There’s a natural end point when both sides rest their cases and the verdict comes down. Plus, lawyers are such loveable characters.
The ABA Journal has made a list of the 25 greatest fictional lawyers of all time:
In our survey of this literature of lawyers, however, we feel obliged to recognize a great divide—ante-Atticus and post-Atticus.
From Dick the Butcher’s famous pronouncement to Jack Cade in Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part 2 — “First thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” — through Dickens’ Mr. Tulkinghorn and Galsworthy’s Soames Forsyte, literature (with a few exceptions) treated lawyers poorly.
That all changed with Harper Lee’s unflappable, unforgettable Atticus Finch. With Atticus, the lawyer — once the criminal mouthpiece, the country club charlatan, the ambulance-chasing buffoon — was now an instrument of truth, an advocate of justice, the epitome of reason.
Since Finch is a literary lawyer on steroids, they have cut him from the competition. The list is the 25 greatest who are not Atticus Finch. Did your favorite make the list?