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Can 'Food Addiction' Be Fodder for Lawsuits?

There's a really interesting new post by Jane Genova over at Law And More predicting a possible resurrection of the obesity class action lawsuits against fast food companies. The first round of lawsuits never gained traction. Judges dismissed the suits claiming that fast food products are inherently dangerous, finding that plaintiffs could not prove that eating fast food caused their poor health. Likewise, suits targeting companies' advertising practices -- either claiming that ads disproportionately focused on "heavy users" of food and or deceptively claimed that fast food could be nutritious -- also flunked the causation test.

But will new research change that? Genova cites a recent New Yorker piece by Elizabeth Kolbert on emerging evidence of a "deliberate effort by the food industry to create cravings for substances that have low nutrition values." The concept is called "eatertainment." As with tobacco suits, it wasn't until litigants began targeting tobacco companies' failure to disclose nicotine's addictive qualities that their suits finally stuck, overcoming tobacco companies' argument that warnings on cigarette boxes shielded them from liability. Moreover, as Genova explains, there are also political reasons that can make "eatertainment" lawsuits more appealing, with the growing national focus on health care costs.

What do you think? The "inherently defective" argument didn't work for food lawsuits, and neither did "deceptive advertising." Is the third time -- addiction-based lawsuits -- the charm for the plaintiffs' bar?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on July 20, 2009 at 03:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)


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