The Man Who Cried 'Lawsuit!'


For the last year and a half, George Washington University law professor John Banzhaf, who treats the epithet "legal terrorist" as a compliment, has been bragging that fast food restaurants and other purveyors of fattening comestibles are running scared because of the obesity litigation he champions. McDonald's et al. ought to be worried, he said, because already there have been "five successful fat lawsuits."

But now that Congress is considering a ban on lawsuits that blame food makers and sellers for making people fat, Banzhaf admits he may have exaggerated a bit. In a press release issued yesterday, he says the Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act "is surely premature, because there has been only one obesity lawsuit, and it was dismissed by a federal judge." Before Congress passes legislation like this, he says, "there should be a real history of abuse which must be corrected, not orchestrated panic based upon one failed lawsuit and some quoted-out-of-context rhetoric."

Having orchestrated the panic and provided the rhetoric, Banzhaf knows whereof he speaks. Still, he is clearly pleased (as always) by the attention, saying the legislation is "like a personal Bill of Attainder aimed just at me."