Common sense seems to be in short supply these days, but at least in court a judge applied a dose of it to the law this week.
Last year, two attorneys filed a case against McDonald’s Corp. on behalf of two obese clients. They claimed that the teenage girls didn’t know the food was high in calories and would contribute to weight gain. They argued that McDonald’s was responsible for the clients’ obesity and health problems.
A variety of activists were drooling at the thought of a victory in what would be a precedent-setting case triggering an on-slot of future litigation against corporations, the fast-food industry and likely even agriculture (meat producers for sure.) The lawsuit sought millions of dollars in damages and demanded that McDonald's fund an educational program to inform children and adults of the dangers of eating its foods.
However, on Jan. 22, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Sweet dismissed the lawsuit. In a 65-page ruling he said flatly, "consumers know (or should reasonably know) the potential ill-health effects of eating at McDonald's. They cannot blame McDonald's if they, nonetheless, choose to satiate their appetite with a surfeit of super-sized McDonald's products."
At the crux of the attorneys’ argument was the claim that high-fat and high-cholesterol content of McDonald's food was "toxic."
"Common sense has prevailed," said Walt Riker, a McDonald's spokesman. "We said from the beginning this was a frivolous lawsuit. Today's ruling confirms that fact."
Richard Berman, with the Center for Consumer Freedom (a coalition of restaurant operators and food and beverage companies) said: "Anyone with an IQ higher than room temperature understands that the best way to stay healthy is to enjoy a variety of foods in moderation – and of course, to exercise regularly.
This marks the second unsuccessful attempt against fast-food by the attorneys. But they’re not likely to give up easily, they are among the class of lawyers who have sued and won against tobacco companies.
"Somewhere there is a judge and a jury that will buy this, and once we get the first verdict, as we did with tobacco, it will open the floodgates," said John Banzhaf, a law professor at George Washington University.
What’s most disturbing is he’s probably right.