This article discusses obesity-related litigation that has been instituted since the U.S. surgeon general declared in December 2001 that obesity and overweight are responsible for some 300,000 deaths annually. Tobacco-control activists John Banzhaf and Richard Daynard, who are quoted in the article, apparently did not think much of such litigation when the idea first surfaced. They now expect, however, that media attention will give rise to increasing attorney interest and the filing of other cases. Plaintiffs’ lawyer John Coale, described as “a veteran of tobacco and gun litigation,” evidently believes that the food industry’s Achilles’ heel is the targeting of children through Saturday morning television commercials, contracts to serve fast food and soft drinks in schools, and promotional initiatives involving toys. Tort reform advocate and Shook Partner Victor Schwartz reportedly predicts that it will take about five years of discovery in obesity-related litigation for plaintiffs’ lawyers to find “documents that, if held up in isolation, make it look like the industry had something to hide.” While the article notes that individual food and beverage companies are not commenting about future litigation trends, a Grocery Manufacturers of America spokesperson was quoted as saying “finger-pointing, reckless accusations and lawsuits … won’t make anyone any thinner.”

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For decades, manufacturers, distributors and retailers at every link in the food chain have come to Shook, Hardy & Bacon to partner with a legal team that understands the issues they face in today's evolving food production industry. Shook attorneys work with some of the world's largest food, beverage and agribusiness companies to establish preventative measures, conduct internal audits, develop public relations strategies, and advance tort reform initiatives.

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