John Stossel has a stinging commentary on a lawsuit against fast food giant McDonald's. Two teenage girls are suing the company saying that they were misled by advertising and became fat and sick because of it. A Federal judge has allowed the suit to proceed.
Three years ago, the girls accused McDonald's of deceptive advertising and selling unhealthy food. Judge Sweet dismissed the suit because the allegations were too vague. "Where should the line be drawn between an individual's own responsibility to take care of herself and society's responsibility to ensure others shield her?" he asked. "The complaint fails to allege the McDonald's products consumed by the plaintiffs were dangerous in any way other than that which was open and obvious to a reasonable consumer."
But he invited the plaintiffs to re-file it with more specific information. Sure enough, they did, and last month, the judge ruled that the girls had identified to his satisfaction "40 deceptive ads" and "sufficiently described" the harm McDonald's food allegedly caused them: "obesity, hypertension and elevated levels of LDL cholesterol."
Who knows what a jury will do when the lawyers play on its sympathy for the overweight girls. Whether McDonald's wins after a lengthy legal battle or loses and gets hit with a big damage award, you and I will pay through higher prices. Our choice of foods could even be limited if fast-food chains decide it's the only way to avoid future lawsuits. Au revoir, French fries?
Are we a nation of responsible adults or children? I don't want government to be my Daddy any more than I want it to be my Big Brother.
Whatever happened to self-responsibility? Sure, McDonald's commercials put the best spin on its products. All advertisers do that. Individuals should exercise caution, and parents should teach their kids a little skepticism. It's not as if information about nutrition is hard to come by. Today we're constantly harangued about cutting calories, reducing fat, and exercising more. McDonald's competitors, such as Subway, provide lots of counter-information. You'd have to live in a cave not to know about this stuff.
This was inevitable after the "tobacco settlement" that made a bunch of lawyers obscenely rich. The frenzy to get corporations to pay for what the plaintiff chose to do to him or herself is getting worse and worse. Stossel suggests a "loser pays" approach. Unfortunately, we all know how badly that has fared in the past against the Trial Lawyers powerful lobby. Which is, of course, funded by those obscenely rich lawyers who hit the judicial jackpot in one of these cases. But the system will lead to fewer and fewer choices for consumers and higher and higher prices, so that more and more obscenely rich lawyers can be created.