New York attorney Samuel Hirsch has filed lawsuits against fast food companies on behalf of two classes of plaintiffs who are allegedly obese and have developed diabetes, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol intake, and other adverse health effects from consuming defendants’ products. Barber v. McDonald’s Corp., No. 23145/2002 (N.Y., Super. Ct., filed July 24, 2002); Pelman v. McDonald’s Corp., No. 24809/2002 (N.Y. Super. Ct., filed August 22, 2002). The cases involve a class of adult plaintiffs and a class of children. The complaints are being brought on theories of (i) unfair and deceptive practices, (ii) failure to warn, and (iii) negligence in selling products high in fat, salt, sugar, and cholesterol, and in marketing to children, in marketing addictive products, and in enticing plaintiffs to consume larger portions in “value meals” and “meal combos.”

According to news sources, the named adult plaintiff, Caesar Barber, 56, did not realize that consumption of fast food hamburgers could lead to health risks. Law professor John Banzhaf, a self-proclaimed pioneer in lawsuits against cigarette manufacturers, is advising the plaintiffs and has reportedly indicated that Hirsch will be focusing on the suit involving children to the extent that they cannot be expected to be personally responsible for their health. Critics have been quoted as saying the suits have little legal merit and have more to do with making money for the lawyers who bring them than with meaningfully addressing the nation’s obesity problems. See coxnews.com, September 19, 2002; news.findlaw.com, August 14, 2002.

About The Author

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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