An Email Chain of Lies – Shedding Light on the Stella Awards

| March 27, 2012 | Comments (0)

Around this time, every year, thousands of Americans begin receiving an email for the “Stella Awards.”  Like many of these chain emails, it’s full of sensational and completely bogus information.  And like other email chains of this nature, most people will take it at face value (since it is usually forwarded from a friend) including members of the press.

For those lucky enough to not have received a copy of the Stella Awards, here’s a rundown.  The Stella Awards are supposed to be annual awards for the most frivolous or outlandish lawsuits filed in the U.S. for that year.  They are named for Stella Liebeck, the woman who sued McDonald’s in the hot coffee incident.

The truth is that these so-called awards aren’t actual awards. They aren’t annual.  They aren’t even actual cases!  These same crazy stories of a civil justice system run amuck are circulated every year and are all fabricated.  Do a search on any of these so-called awards and you will find every reputable fact-checking site has debunked these cases.

The icing on the cake is the use of Stella Liebeck’s name for these fictional awards.  Once again, tort reformers, big business (who are surely behind this misleading email chain) and pro-tort reformers have misrepresented the Liebeck case in order to discredit the justice system.  The Liebeck case was anything but frivolous and uncovered an entire culture within McDonald’s that put its patrons at risk.  Liebeck’s burns were so severe, she almost lost her life.  McDonald’s was assuredly aware of the risk associated with brewing their coffee at a temperature above safe human consumption and had even hired a full-time employee just to deal with coffee-burn victims.

So, what you have in the Stella Awards is a blatant piece of propaganda that has been spread from email to email for years.  The worst part of this is those same people who are passing this around are the very people civil justice system is set up to protect.

Unfortunately, the Stella Awards are just another piece in a propaganda machine that has actively sought to protect insurance and big business for more than a decade.  The misinformation that has been spread has lead to horrible, damaging tort reform and I see the effects it has on citizens every day.  The Stella Awards are just another way to condition Americans into believing there is a need for tort reform when it was never an issue to begin with.

The fact is the justice system works.  When a frivolous or pointless lawsuit is filed, it doesn’t make it very far.  It’s thrown out.  By misrepresenting cases and spreading lies, insurance companies and pro-tort reform politicians have been able to warp much of the public’s perception to better line up with their vision of the civil justice system.  And make no mistake, their vision for the civil justice system has nothing to do with protecting your rights.

I encourage you to do your own research.  One way you can do this is to watch the fantastic documentary, Hot Coffee.  It does a masterful job of laying out the REAL facts of the Liebeck case and goes on to show exactly how the public has been mislead in the tort reform debate.

If you receive a copy of the Stella Awards, I hope you will be confident in knowing the cases contained are either fake or gross misrepresentations of the facts.  Hopefully, you will be let your friend know the same and maybe one day, the truth will be as widely known as the lies contained in the Stella Awards.

Category: Legal Briefs

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