Skip to comments.Bill would end fat lawsuits
Posted on 10/22/2003 10:45:57 AM PDT by NormsRevenge
WASHINGTON - Their lawsuits have been defeated in the courts, and now a Senate bill would tell obese Americans that their weight gain is nobody's fault but their own.
The "Commonsense Consumption Act," a bill introduced by tort-reform champion Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., would prohibit obese Americans from suing food companies for weight-related medical conditions. A federal judge in New York already threw out two such lawsuits earlier this year. Read McConnell's bill.
The legislation also represents another move by Republican legislators to curb class-action lawsuits and the sway of powerful trial lawyers. By a one-vote margin Wednesday, the Senate failed to move forward on a White House-backed tort-reform bill that would force more class-action suits to be tried in federal courts.
"The logic of (obesity lawsuits) is ridiculous," McConnell testified recently before a Senate subcommittee. "If we keep this up, it will not be long until we sue car dealers when we get speeding tickets."
At the heart of the issue is whether or not businesses should be held responsible for the food they sell obese Americans.
Plaintiffs in a lawsuit against McDonald's argued that they were unaware of the potentially harmful effects of the company's food because the fast-food giant does not make its nutritional information "adequately available." They also accused McDonald's of being deceptive about ingredients in its products.
"Americans should stop blaming others and instead take personal responsibility for their own food choices," said Dr. Gerard Musante, a clinical psychologist and founder of the Structure House weight-loss facility in Durham, N.C. "Negative lifestyle choices cause obesity, not a trip to a fast-food restaurant or a cookie high in transfat."
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., the chairman of the Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on administrative oversight and the courts, denounced the effects of what he considers to be a proliferation of "frivolous" lawsuits.
"The potentially detrimental effects of runaway verdicts is well known, but there are huge costs that arise from the defense of unjustified lawsuits as well," he said.
In a written statement, David S. Casey Jr., the president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, urged Congress not to usurp the courts' power.
"As always, the ATLA stands on the side of our civil justice system," he said. "The courts themselves -- not editorial pages, not the Internet, not state legislatures, not Congress -- are the best forum for determining the merits of any lawsuit."
The lawyers group opposes what it considers political influence on the judicial system.
The legislation has gained support from groups like the National Restaurant Association, which fears the economic effects on the restaurant industry if obesity lawsuits are allowed to continue.
"It would take only one lawsuit of this nature to potentially put me out of business and take away all that I have worked for," said Wayne Reaves, a restaurant association board member who testified before the subcommittee. Reaves owns a chain of seven Jack's Family Restaurants in Alabama.
Businesses worry that they will not be able to afford liability insurance if the suits continue, Sessions said.
A Gallup poll conducted this summer found that nearly 90 percent of all Americans do not believe the fast-food industry should be held legally responsible for diet-related health problems.Allen Kenney is a reporter for Medill News Service in Washington.
Glad to hear Jeff is on board. I've heard he has ties to trial lawyers himself (and maybe is one?)
Practically anyone can file a civil lawsuit if they "believe" they have been "injured" or "done wrong" in some way by someone with money.
Lawsuits are supposed to be determined based on the law. Lawsuits can also result in laws being created (eg. common law)that comes out of court decisions.
Either way your in trouble though - lawyers make up most of congress!
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