....LMB: "Stepping Back"....

February 07, 2004

I feel a bit of regret for posting my piece about the crazy Super Bowl Nipple Lawsuit. It's of course a funny story about a ludicrous event, but it plays into a popular myth that favors a harmful corporate agenda.

Rich folks and corporations have fanned the flames of the idea that America is a "sue-happy" nation, where anyone will slap you with a lawsuit at the drop of a hat for any reason. And that seems to get confirmed whenever we turn on the news and they tell us about another loony lawsuit.

The gold standard of frivolous lawsuit stories is the Woman Who Spilled the Coffee. You've heard it. Woman goes to McDonald's, buys a cup of coffee, spills the hot coffee in her lap, and sues the restaurant, when it's obviously her own fault. That story has been streamlined over the years for maximum absurdity, but when you look at the details, it's a much more gruesome story.

Long story short, that McDonald's was keeping its coffee at a temperature that will give you third-degree burns in two to seven seconds, and about 50 degrees (Farenheit) higher than the coffee you usally make at your house.

The unfortunate coffee-spiller of our story received third-degree burns over 6% of her body, was in the hospital for 8 days, and had to undergo skin grafts. She asked McDonald's to give her $20,000 to cover her medical costs, and they refused. And despite all the lurid claims of a multimillion dollar payout, it looks as though the elderly plaintiff received less than $600,000.

Sorry, the ignorance about that case is a pet peeve of mine.

But really, how many times have you been sued? And how many times have you sued someone else. How about your friends and relatives, have they sued or been sued on a regular basis? Of all of those cases, how many seemed unfounded to you?

Conservatives keep pushing this idea that frivolous lawsuits are epidemic and the root cause of all of our national ills, and that this country is in dire need of "tort reform." And tort reform is code for "price cap on lawsuits," so that no matter how awful a company's actions, no matter how badly a doctor butchers you, that the evil-doers in question don't have to pay too much money when they're found guilty.

Me bringing up the goofy Super Bowl case plays on this theme, as though there was a frivlous lawsuit around every corner, just begging for a good tort reform thrashing. That ain't so, and I'm sorry that I played into their hands.

Posted by Jake at 06:19 PM | TrackBack (0)
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The McDonald's Myth irritates me too. I am never at a loss to fill in more details. Another piece of the story was that there was an internal memo that queried, "What does an 80 year old woman need with a vagina, anyway?", but I cannot for the life of me recall where I read it or account for its accuracy (or explain why it would be admissable). What I can say is that having done a lot of corporate discovery, it is a typical attitude and just the kind of statement that pisses a jury off if they hear it; hence the size of the awards. Thanks.

Posted by: Catherine at February 9, 2004 12:01 AM

It drives me insane when this story is repeated - ALWAYS without the true details. Whenever someone sends me some crap e-mail about "The Stella Awards" and all that, I send them the whole story.

Posted by: at February 10, 2004 09:16 PM
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Lying Media Bastards is both a radio show and website. The show airs Mondays 2-4pm PST on KillRadio.org, and couples excellent music with angry news commentary. And the website, well, you're looking at it.

Both projects focus on our media-marinated world, political lies, corporate tyranny, and the folks fighting the good fight against these monsters.

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Media News

November 16, 2004

Tales of Media Woe

Senate May Ram Copyright Bill- one of the most depressing stories of the day that didn't involve death or bombs. It's the music and movie industries' wet dream. It criminalizes peer-to-peer software makers, allows the government to file civil lawsuits on behalf of these media industries, and eliminates fair use. Fair use is the idea that I can use a snippet of a copyrighted work for educational, political, or satirical purposes, without getting permission from the copyright-holder first.

And most tellingly, the bill legalizes technology that would automatically skip over "obejctionable content" (i.e. sex and violence) in a DVD, but bans devices that would automatically skip over commericals. This is a blatant, blatant, blatant gift to the movie industry. Fuck the movie industry, fuck the music industry, fuck the Senate.

Music industry aims to send in radio cops- the recording industry says that you're not allowed to record songs off the radio, be it real radio or internet radio. And now they're working on preventing you from recording songs off internet radio through a mixture of law and technological repression (although I imagine their techno-fixes will get hacked pretty quickly).

The shocking truth about the FCC: Censorship by the tyranny of the few- blogger Jeff Jarvis discovers that the recent $1.2 million FCC fine against a sex scene in Fox's "Married By America" TV show was not levied because hundreds of people wrote the FCC and complained. It was not because 159 people wrote in and complained (which is the FCC's current rationale). No, thanks to Jarvis' FOIA request, we find that only 23 people (of the show's several million viewers) wrote in and complained. On top of that, he finds that 21 of those letters were just copy-and-paste email jobs that some people attached their names to. Jarvis then spins this a bit by saying that "only 3" people actually wrote letters to the FCC, which is misleading but technically true. So somewhere between 3 and 23 angry people can determine what you can't see on television. Good to know.

Reuters Union Considers Striking Over Layoffs- will a strike by such a major newswire service impact the rest of the world's media?

Pentagon Starts Work On War Internet- the US military is talking about the creation of a global, wireless, satellite-aided computer network for use in battle. I think I saw a movie about this once...

Conservative host returns to the air after week suspension for using racial slur- Houston radio talk show host (and somtime Rush Limbaugh substitute) Mark Belling referred to Mexican-Americans as "wetbacks" on his show. He was suspended for a couple of weeks, and then submitted a written apology for the racial slur to a local newspaper. But he seems to be using the slur and its surrounding controversy to boost his conservative cred with his listeners.

Stay Tuned for Nudes- Cleveland TV news anchor Sharon Reed aired a story about artist Spencer Tunick, who uses large numbers of naked volunteers in his installations and photographs. The news report will be unique in that it will not blur or black-out the usual naughty bits. The story will air late at night, when it's allegedly okay with the FCC if you broadcast "indecent" material. The author of this article doesn't seem to notice that Reed first claims that this report is a publicity stunt, but then claims it's a protest against FCC repression. I'd like to think it's the latter, but I'm not that much of a sucker.

Posted by Jake at 04:02 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
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Jake's first attempt at homemade Mongolican barbecue:

Failure.

What went right: correctly guessing several key seasonings- lemon, ginger, soy, garlic, chili.

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