Not satisfied with $250 billion dollars in settlements from Big Tobacco, the trial lawyers are sharpening their knives
(and forks) and going after Big Food. In late July a New York City lawyer filed a class-action lawsuit against McDonald’s,
Wendy’s, Burger King, and KFC, alleging that quick service restaurants should be held financially responsible for their
customers’ eating habits. After going it alone for all of 24 hours, plaintiff’s attorney Samuel Hirsch demonstrated that
he means business by enlisting the help of top obesity shark John Banzhaf.
All the players in this charade have made appearances on the cable talk show circuit to state their cases. On July 25,
Hirsch and his client Caesar Barber (the first of ten purported “victims”) appeared on CNN’s Connie Chung Tonight.
Barber, the obese maintenance worker who is suing fast food restaurants, has suffered two heart attacks and claims
it was “the advertisement[s] that got me.” The New York Post reported early in the game that Barber had stopped eating
fast food in 1996, on the advice of doctors. But he changed his story on CNN, telling Connie Chung that he ignored his
doctor’s warnings and kept eating fast food after his first coronary. Barber acknowledged that “the doctor was right in ’96,”
but refused to accept the blame for his own bad decisions.
Victor Schwartz, general counsel for the American Tort Reform Association, warned Chung’s viewers about the big picture.
“People should take responsibility for themselves,” he said. “If they don’t, the liquor industry, the fast food industry,
anything that’s an indulgence, is going to be subject to [legal] liability.”
The following morning, John Banzhaf and the Center for Consumer Freedom’s Rick Berman joined CNN for American Morning with
Paula Zahn. Never one to let the truth get in the way of a good payday, Banzhaf defended the Barber lawsuit by claiming that
fast food restaurants don’t provide information about fat content, calories, and sodium. Berman pointed out that the information
is “already available” in most quick service franchises, without anyone forcing restaurant owners to provide it.
“At the end of the day,” said Berman, “this is a PR stunt that is masquerading as serious litigation, and I don’t even know how
John [Banzhaf] can do this with a straight face.”
According to a WNBC poll in New York, 83 percent of respondents say that restaurants are not responsible for the health of
their customers. Still, Banzhaf keeps pressing on, insisting that the Barber lawsuit “has the potential to put fast food
companies on the run.” But even Banzhaf admits that connections with tobacco torts (his specialty) are tenuous at best:
just a few days before the Caesar Barber lawsuit hit the fan, he conceded on MSNBC that “food is not technically addictive.”
Seeing the writing on the wall, the Center for Consumer Freedom’s John Doyle has told ABC that Barber’s lawyer “must be aware
that fully two-thirds of all foods consumed in America are consumed in people’s homes. Is he proposing that we sue America’s moms?”
Doyle added: “To win his suit he has to convince a jury or a judge that people are too stupid to feed themselves or their children.
If people are so stupid, should they be allowed to vote or go to work in the morning?”