Minnesota could become the latest state to pass a so-called cheeseburger bill banning lawsuits by consumers who blame their obesity on the high-calorie offerings of fast-food restaurants.
According to the National Restaurant Association, such bills have passed in 23 states, but similar legislation has failed twice in Minnesota, most recently in 2005.
State Rep. Dean Urdahl, a Republican, is taking another bite at the burger. He has introduced the “Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act” to shield food producers and sellers from liability for weight gain resulting from an individual’s “long-term purchase or consumption of a food or nonalcoholic beverage.”
“If you eat too many cheeseburgers at a fast-food restaurant and get fat, it’s not their fault. It’s your fault,” Urdahl told the St. Cloud Times.
The 2005 bill, also introduced by Urdahl, passed the Minnesota House but never made it out of a Senate committee amid opposition from trial lawyers. But the GOP now controls both the House and Senate, probably improving the chances that the legislation will pass this time.
Urdahl portrays the bill as an effort to stop frivolous litigation. But a spokesman for the Minnesota Association for Justice, a trial lawyers group, countered that “there’s no purpose” for the bill. The spokesman said he has never heard of a lawsuit in the state of the type that Urdahl is trying to ban.
Critics of obesity suits have pointed in particular to a 2002 New York case in which people sued McDonald’s Corp. after eating its food for years and putting on too much weight. The case is still pending, with a judge last year denying the plaintiffs’ motion to certify it as a class action.