Archive for Monday, June 27, 2011

‘Hot Coffee’ a scalding look at tort reform

June 27, 2011


Sometimes a simple anecdote is the shortest path to explaining a complicated truth. Or to distorting the facts and confusing the public. The documentary “Hot Coffee” (8 p.m., HBO) takes a contrarian look at the politics, law and language surrounding so-called “frivolous” lawsuits and the powerful business interests that have spent vast sums to make “tort reform” a hot-button issue.

Written and directed by Susan Saladoff, a lawyer with a quarter-century experience in civil law, “Coffee” demonstrates how the tort reform movement has capitalized on cases (like the suit against McDonald’s that gives this documentary its name) to limit the liability of corporations. Saladoff argues that through simplistic arguments and hundreds of millions of dollars in lobbying, the tort reform movement has stripped Americans of their constitutional rights as jurors.

Of the many experts heard from here, the most famous is lawyer and best-selling author John Grisham. His best- seller “The Appeal” was based on the real-life story of a Mississippi Supreme Court justice hounded out of office and replaced by a business-friendly judge after he was targeted by out-of-state tort reform lobbyists.

• On the other side of the ledger sheet, “Titans” (8 p.m., CNBC) profiles and celebrates Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric Co., a man who has been long associated with its transformation into one of the world’s most profitable corporations.

His efforts to make GE leaner and more flexible included a relentless focus on shedding workers. More than 100,000 GE workers were let go during his tenure, earning Welch the nickname “Neutron Jack,” after the so-called neutron bomb that vaporized people and left buildings behind.

• Alison Sweeney (“Biggest Loser”) and Ruby of “Ruby” fame helm a town hall meeting on teen obesity on “Too Fat for 15: The Obesity Crisis” (7 p.m., Style).

• Suburban women face outrageous fortune with one- liners and smug attitudes on Showtime. “Weeds” (9:05 p.m.) and “The Big C” (9:30 p.m.) begin new seasons.

• An international fairy tale sensation based on an Italian cartoon, the “Winx Club” (7 p.m., Nickelodeon) debuts on American cable.

Tonight’s other highlights

• Two hours of competition on “MasterChef” (7 p.m., Fox).

• A banker’s last statement on “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” (8 p.m., NBC).

• Just because you live in Beverly Hills doesn’t mean that you won’t end up on “Hoarders” (8 p.m., A&E;).

• A corpse is discovered in a superhero costume on “Hawaii Five-O” (9 p.m., CBS).

• A birthday party beating on “Law & Order: Los Angeles” (9 p.m., NBC).

• “Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided” (9 p.m., PBS, check local listings) profiles a first family unlike any other.

• “Unsung” (9 p.m., TVOne) profiles Big Daddy Kane.


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