Eating a Big Mac a day does not keep the doctor away -- everyone knows that... or, at the very least, should know that, according to a federal judge in New York. A decision issued Wednesday by Judge Robert Sweet threw out a multi-million dollar class action lawsuit filed against fast food giant McDonald's by parents who claimed their children grew obese and faced medical problems because of consuming too many super sized burgers, fries, and shakes.
Returning some common sense to our runaway tort system, the judge explained that his decision was "guided by the principle that legal consequences should not attach to the consumption of hamburgers and other fast food fare unless consumers are unaware of the dangers of eating such food."
"If consumers know (or reasonably should 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 supersized McDonald[']s products," the judge wrote. "Nobody is forced to eat at McDonald[']s."
The judge also explained that there was simply no question that the plaintiffs knew that eating fast food carried health risks. "It is well-known that fast food in general, and McDonald[’]s products in particular, contain high levels of cholesterol, fat, salt, and sugar, and that such attributes are bad for one," the judge wrote.
The decision wholly rejected the plaintiffs' theory that McDonald's could be liable for consumers' weight and medical concerns simply because advertisements encourage them to eat at McDonald's everyday.
Characterizing the commercials as "mere puffery," the judge noted that the spots did "not include any indication that [eating at McDonald's] is part of a well-balanced diet." Moreover, "the plaintiffs fail[ed] to cite any advertisement where McDonald[']s asserts that its products may be eaten for every meal of every day without ill consequences."
In fact, the judge made it clear that consumers have ample opportunities to get the information needed to make educated dining choices. "Plaintiffs admit that McDonald[']s has made its nutritional information available online and do not contest that such information is available upon request," the decision said.
The decision allows the plaintiffs 30 days to amend their complaint, and their attorney promised to refile. Thus, a reheated McLawsuit will be back in court in the near future. Hopefully the judge will remember what he wrote when he first dismissed the case: "[I]t is not the place of the law to protect [individuals] from their own excesses."January 23, 2003
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