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Fast-Food Lawsuit Denies Personal Responsibility
August 6, 2002
by George Getz

WASHINGTON, DC -- A lawsuit filed by an obese New Yorker against several popular fast-food chains should be immediately dismissed, Libertarians say, because individuals and not restaurants like Burger King are responsible for what they eat.

"Claiming you don't know that fatty food is bad for you now that's a real whopper!" said Steve Dasbach, Libertarian Party executive director. "This man and his lawyer should be rebuked for filing this preposterous suit then forced to reimburse the targeted companies for any legal expenses."

Caesar Barber, a 5-foot-10-inch, 272-pound maintenance worker, filed a suit in Bronx Supreme Court last week that accuses McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and KFC Corp. of false advertising because they "misled" him about the nutritional value of their food. Barber says he has been eating fast food "four or five times a week" since the 1950s and blames that for his diabetes, high blood pressure and series of heart attacks.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages and also aims to force the fast-food industry to offer "greater variety" to consumers, including vegetarian meals. Supporters also hope to spur federal legislation requiring warning labels on fast food similar to those on tobacco products.

"This lawsuit isn't just an attack on Burger King and McDonald's; it's an attack on the very notion of personal responsibility, without which a free society can't function," Dasbach said. "Does anyone really believe that Mr. Barber was too dumb to know that repeatedly gorging himself on saturated fat was less healthy than ordering, say, a fruit dish or a chef salad? Has he never heard of the words 'dieters' platter,' 'health club,' or 'No, thanks?' And does anyone want to reward him for that behavior by forcing the restaurant industry to fork over millions of dollars?

"Keep in mind that if businesses can be punished every time someone abuses their products, eventually they will go bankrupt, their employees will be jobless, and responsible consumers won't have access to these products."

And make no mistake: This lawsuit isn't designed to compensate one man for his medical expenses; it's designed to extort billions of dollars from the fast-food industry, Dasbach warned.

"Barber's attorney, Samuel Hirsch, has called the legal action 'the first of its kind' and likened it to the lawsuits against the tobacco industry," Dasbach said. "It's no accident that he targeted the four largest fast-food chains in America, rather than a mom-and-pop restaurant: He and his client are far more interested in shaking down successful businesses than in changing the menu at McDonald's."

Though Americans might be outraged and even amused by this lawsuit, no one should be surprised, Libertarians say.

"The successful lawsuits against tobacco companies set the precedent that people were not responsible for their own unhealthy behavior," Dasbach said. "Politicians were only too happy to pile on by suing tobacco companies for billions of dollars and using the money to create new programs. It became inevitable that other industries, such as guns and even fast food, would be targeted."

But instead of wondering which industries are going to be next, Americans should stand up for personal responsibility and demand an end to such ridiculous lawsuits, Dasbach said.

"The court should throw this lawsuit out immediately before Mr. Barber makes a meal out of the entire restaurant industry."

George Getz is Press Secretary for the Libertarian Party.

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