Filed Under: Trial Lawyers

‘Hordes’ Of Trial Sharks Circling Obesity Bandwagon

“There are hordes of lawyers” looking to sue food makers for causing obesity, nutrition nag Marion Nestle told the New York Times this week. Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports that more legislatures are considering bills — already passed by a dozen states — to prevent frivolous obesity lawsuits from clogging up the courts.

The AP quotes litigation ringleader John “Sue the Bastards” Banzhaf saying that greedy trial lawyers will keep trying until they find the right “victim”: “Is it a shoo-in? No … But if we pick our plaintiffs carefully, the guy who eats there every day, we can make our cases stick.” Banzhaf, of course, was a legal advisor to obese New Yorker Caesar Barber, who sued four large fast-food restaurants for supposedly making him fat. While that case was thrown out of court, Banzhaf’s buddies continue their fervor for fat suits — and they’re getting plenty of air cover from their reliable friends, the food cops.

Center for Science in the Public Interest executive director Michael Jacobson was also quoted in the AP story, lamenting the rise of legislation to prevent obesity lawsuits. But in contrast to the statements of Nestle and Banzhaf, who make clear that these lawsuits are driven by lawyers, Jacobson implies — absurdly — that the suits are somehow the result of consumer demand. He told the AP that anti-lawsuit legislative efforts “deprive the public of the right to have a day in court if they feel they have been aggrieved.”

Apparently, Jacobson missed the memo from Public Health Advocacy Institute director Richard Daynard, who urged attendees of that group’s last litigation-pushing conference to work from a master script. Before Jacobson and Banzhaf team up again to threaten food makers with lawsuits, perhaps they should get their stories straight.

Of course, the public doesn’t agree with food cop Jacobson or trial shark Banzhaf. Polls show the public overwhelmingly disapproves of lawsuits blaming restaurants for the love handles of some of their customers. Even a trial-lawyer-turned-state-representative told the AP that pre-empting such lawsuits was “so common sense … Most people don’t see any reason to impose liability for an individual’s inability to push himself away from the dinner table.”

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