It’s no secret that frivolous lawsuits are becoming increasingly absurd. Case in point: Last year, a Washington, DC judge sued a family-owned neighborhood dry cleaner for $54 million over a pair of lost pants. As the lawsuit game gets steadily more ridiculous, it also becomes more lucrative for the lawyers involved. For that reason, this inane trend shows no signs of slowing down.
On Monday, Georgetown University law professor Lawrence Gostin began laying the groundwork for more of these profiteering lawsuits. He told attendees at an Australian public health summit that government officials spend too much time fighting terrorism and not enough fighting flab. This argument, that cheeseburgers are more dangerous than terrorists, is just as absurd as the notion that Americans are too stupid to make their own food decisions. Unfortunately, that’s the very assumption underlying many anti-obesity campaigns by food cops and trial lawyers.
With his long history of pushing for lawsuits in the name of public health, Gostin is well acquainted with this kind of shock-and-awe rhetoric. It is a common scare tactic used to fuel the public panic necessary for civil suits and draconian laws to succeed.
You can easily imagine dollar signs flashing in his eyes when Gostin nostalgically recalled in a 2007 editorial how the first obesity lawsuits against fast food restaurants “gave hope to advocates.” If his apparent longing for these court cases wasn’t enough to earn him the title of food tyrant, his push for food bans, restaurant zoning, and sin taxes on “the cheapest, tastiest, and most available dietary options” should easily put him over the top.