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McDonald’s

In San Francisco, Judge Richard Kramer has dismissed the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s lawsuit on behalf of parent Monet Parham seeking to declare unlawful McDonald’s practice of including a toy in its Happy Meal. I wrote about the case last year. [SF Weekly, earlier here, here]

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Another law professor finds the hot-coffee and obesity lawsuits admirable, and Ted Frank once more begs to differ.

San Francisco Happy Meal ban

by Walter Olson on November 30, 2011

It takes effect Thursday, but, as some had predicted, the hamburger chain seems to be evading its reach fairly easily just by assigning a separate price to the toy. [SF Weekly]

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This week has brought one nudge forward and one push back for the paternalistic “food policy” crowd, or so I argue in a new opinion piece for the New York Daily News (& welcome Instapundit/Glenn Reynolds readers, Center for Consumer Freedom “Quote of the Week“).

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Columnist Steve Chapman has their number:

People don’t like cheap, tasty, high-calorie fare because McDonald’s offers it. McDonald’s offers it because people like it. … We live in an age of inexpensive, abundant food carefully designed to please the mass palate. Most of us, recalling the scarcity, dietary monotony and starvation that afflicted our ancestors for hundreds of millennia, count that as progress. But those determined to save human beings from their own alleged folly see it as catastrophic.

[Examiner]

Displaying a healthy sense of the absurdity of it all.

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Happy Meal lawsuit, cont’d

by Walter Olson on December 17, 2010

My New York Daily News opinion piece stirred up a whole lot of discussion: at Megan McArdle/The Atlantic, Hans Bader/CEI, Mike Riggs/Daily Caller “TheDC Morning”, Outside the Beltway, Radley Balko, AllahPundit/Hot Air, Never Yet Melted, Modeled Behavior, Above the Law, Twitter mentions, John Hayward/Human Events, Jammie Wearing Fool, Andrew Stuttaford/NRO “Corner”, Amy Alkon, Chris Robinette/TortsProf, Ira Stoll/Future of Capitalism, Tom Kirkendall, John Steele Gordon/Commentary, and my own write-up at Cato at Liberty.

Also: Check out the further information Ira Stoll has developed at his site about the meals San Francisco serves at its own schools, which seem to compare not at all favorably with the meals the city’s council has seen fit to ban.

Remember, this isn’t a once-every-so-often treat provided at parental discretion, like a Happy Meal — this is the food the state is serving for lunch in the essentially compulsory government schools. The fact that it’s McDonald’s rather than the government schools that are getting sued by this parent and advocacy group gives away what the lawsuit is really about. It’s not really about food, or calories — it’s about an attempt to increase the power of the state over private enterprise by restricting the power of the private enterprise to market its product. The suit isn’t about the “meal,” it’s about the “happy.”

More on the nutritional background: Patrick Basham and John Luik, “A Happy Meal Ban Is Nothing to Smile About”, Spiked Online; David Oliver. On the legal: Russell Jackson. And welcome listeners of Lars Larson’s Portland, Ore.-based radio show, which welcomed me as a guest to discuss the case Dec. 17.

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The Center for Science in the Public Interest, also known as Busybody Central, is filing a would-be class action under California consumer law over the hamburger giant’s marketing of fast food with toys. I have much more to say about that at the New York Daily News online opinion section (& linked at Above the Law, John Hayward/Human Events, Jammie Wearing Fool, Andrew Stuttaford/NRO “Corner”, Chris Robinette/TortsProf, Ira Stoll/Future of Capitalism), and am also quoted in the Reuters coverage. Earlier on Happy Meal law here, including a pointer to this Bruce Nye post from June on why CSPI’s claims are unlikely to prevail.

P.S. Happy to see that as of late Wednesday evening my piece is the most read, most emailed, and most discussed at the Daily News opinion site. Followups and links here.

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It took eight years to get the wretched thing thrown out. [noted earlier; Wajert, Frank, Bader]

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A nation laughs, even if many kids don’t. [CNN, earlier] More: “Why the government has no business banning Happy Meals” [Steve Chapman] “Banning Happy Meals Could Be Bad for Kids” [Atlantic Wire]

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Carrying out its previously reported threat. [L.A. Times] More: Atlantic Wire; BoingBoing (with “fatwa” Photoshop); Lowering the Bar.

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An “Only in America” story? Not this time: “A Brazilian court ruled this week that McDonald’s must pay a former franchise manager $17,500 because he gained 65 pounds while working there for a dozen years.” [AP/USA Today] More: Lowering the Bar.

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San Francisco considers following Santa Clara County’s ban on most Happy Meals [Ken at Popehat] There’s also a new protest website entitled Free To Choose Our Meals.

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The infamous class action litigation seeking to blame McDonald’s for the obesity of putative class members is going forward, having survived a third motion to dismiss. (Mark Hamblett, “N.Y. Judge Rebuffs McDonald’s Motion to Dismiss Deceptive Ad Claims”, New York Law Journal, Sep. 22). Judge Sweet’s opinion will be posted to the AEI Liability Project Documents in the News page later today. I discuss the Pelman case in my Taxonomy of Obesity Litigation paper. The failure of the motion means that, unless McDonald’s can persuade Judge Sweet to bifurcate discovery to resolve class certification issues first, the plaintiffs will be able to impose millions, and perhaps tens of millions, of dollars of litigation expenses on McDonald’s if they dare to defend themselves instead of buying off the class. Copycat litigation is likely.

Ironically, yesterday was the day that the folks at the Bizarro-Overlawyered site chose to attack pending legislation shutting down such ludicrous suits as “pure hype” because there supposedly were no such suits. (The House already passed the bill in a bipartisan 306-120 vote.) It’s a mystery to me why the special interest group of the litigation lobby is devoting so many resources trying to shut down legislation that they claim makes no difference. Earlier at Overlawyered: Apr. 20, 2005; Jan. 27, 2005; Sep. 4, 2003. Cross-posted at Point of Law.

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A Little Rock friend of mine had an emergency gap in his law review, and solicited me to write about the fast-food litigation. I’m not a big fan of the eight-footnotes-a-page-style that law reviews like, but I think the piece is a good overview of what has happened to date. The article, 28 UALR L. Rev. 427 (2006), can be downloaded at SSRN (help me catch up with Bainbridge!) or at the AEI Liability Project website. (cross-posted at Point of Law)

I worry that events have outstripped me; one sentence in the article, “Why is selling soda [to 17-year-olds] an attractive nuisance, but selling … Internet connectivity is not?” predates the MySpace litigation.

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