Posted 5:33 p.m. Nov. 25
by Marcus Mrowka
U-WIRE (DC BUREAU)
(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON–A lawsuit accusing the fast food chain McDonald’s of contributing to the obesity of Americans was argued in New York City’s U.S. Courthouse last Wednesday.
The case argued that McDonalds failure to provide warnings about the dangers of eating fast food on frequent occasions and its failure to clearly showcase the amount of calories and fat in their menu items was a leading factor in causing a large amount of children to become obese and suffer harmful health problems due to their obesity.
According to the class action complaint filed, currently there are nearly twice as many overweight children and almost three times as many overweight adolescents as there were in 1980. Approximately 300,000 deaths a year in the United States are currently associated with overweight and obesity, and as indicated in the U.S. Surgeon General’s 2001 Report on Overweight and Obesity, “left unabated, overweight and obesity may soon cause as much preventable disease and death as cigarette smoking.”
Other class action suits filed against cigarette manufacturers arguing that their negligence in informing consumers on the dangers of smoking have resulted in large settlements and more recently suits filed against lead paint manufacturers have led to rulings that make it clear that the City of St. Louis can sue seven lead paint manufacturers for the health care costs caused by their product, holding that the product “presents a very serious and pervasive threat to the public health.” The obesity case is trying to present the same argument that fast food presents a clear and present danger to one’s health.
Talking about the lead paint cases as well as the obesity cases, a George Washington University public interest law professor John F. Banzhaf III said, “Whether or not they win, these actions show that cities and states can sue when products force governments to pay huge health costs, even if the users or their parents should have been aware of the dangers.”
Banzoff also argued in a recent press release that, “The U.S. Surgeon General estimates that the recent epidemic of obesity costs the American economy over $115 billion a year – much of it paid by non-obese people in the form of higher taxes and inflated health insurance costs. Every major study blames fast food companies as one of the major causes.”
New York Attorney Samuel Hirsch represented the children affected in the case while McDonald’s lawyer Brad Lerman insisted the lawsuit was a frivolous attempt to take advantage of McDonalds’ huge profits and popularity.
According to the Associated Press, Lerman argued that this lawsuit was “the kind of lawsuit that shouldn’t be in court.” Lerman argued that the case should be dismissed immediately.
Plaintiffs are also citing the fact that McDonald’s in France is already providing exactly the type of warning they are seeking. The warning in says that: “there is no reason to eat excessive amounts of junk food, nor to go more than once a week to McDonald’s.”
According to McDonald’s Web site, a Big Mac packs 590 calories and 34 grams of fat while a large French fries weighs in at 540 calories and 26 grams of fat.
Senior Judge Robert W. Sweet did not immediately rule on the request to dismiss the case. The case before Sweet is the first to make the untested argument that fast-food companies are legally liable for the health problems of some of their customers.