Prime Time Consumer Freedom

“I would not be surprised to see McDonald’s paying more than $50 billion over the next decade” in “punitive damages” and “compensation for pain and suffering,” greedy trial lawyer John Banzhaf told a British newspaper yesterday. But thanks to ABC News, around seven million Americans saw the Center for Consumer Freedom’s advertisement mocking buffoons like Banzhaf, who are trying to turn food companies into their next cash cow.

A 20/20 “Give Me A Break” segment on obesity lawsuits gave Banzhaf plenty of time to make his case — but even veteran newswoman Barbara Walters concluded: “That sounds crazy … whatever happened to self-control?”

When ABC’s John Stossel asked whether a restaurant is at fault “if I go in there and have three milkshakes,” Banzhaf responded that the food provider is to blame if it fails to warn customers about the dangers of eating there. “People every year fall off stepladders and get injured,” Banzhaf notes. “And if there isn’t a very clear and conspicuous warning, the stepladder people are liable for their fair share.” To which Stossel responds:

There are 40 warnings on a stepladder, but I don’t think that makes us safer. In fact, ladders are a good example of how lawyers like Banzhaf have made warning labels meaningless. There are so many labels on so many things that we don’t read labels we should read. Like the warning label on microwave popcorn that tells you could burn yourself when you open the bag. Or the label on some antibiotics that says it won’t work if you take it with milk. We ought to read those, but when there’s so much information, who reads any of it?

Yet Banzhaf insists that restaurants post “warning labels” about the supposedly addictive nature of their food. For those of you keeping score, the latest news isn’t good for the trial-lawyer lobby: last week scientists whose research has been used to buttress claims of food addiction told Obesity Policy Report that their work was misinterpreted.

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