Niki Sullivan of the Associated Press reports that a weight problem caused by too much fast food would no longer be potential grounds for a lawsuit under a bill on its way to Gov. Ted Kulongoski.
The Senate unanimously passed a bill Thursday that prohibits lawsuits against restaurants and fast-food companies by consumers who develop health problems — including obesity — after eating the food over a long period.
State officials say no one in Oregon has ever filed such a lawsuit, but supporters of the bill say it would protect those businesses from frivolous litigation.
The bill was prompted by a case filed in New York state against McDonald’s, claiming the fast-food chain had caused obesity in thousands of children. That lawsuit is pending in federal court.
“This bill protects purveyors of fast foods from people who are digging their own graves one teaspoon at a time, one cheeseburger at a time, one taco grande at a time,” said Sen. Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, after the Senate passed the bill.
Ferrioli said that in the wake of legal victories against Big Tobacco, public health lawsuits are now being filed against Big Food — like McDonald’s and Burger King.
Oregon joins 15 other states that have passed similar legislation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
“This is a consumer protection law … but it also protects those who merely sell food,” Ferrioli said.
The bill does not prohibit all lawsuits against fast-food marketers, meaning consumers could still sue for deceptive marketing practices or false food labeling, for example.
Consumers could also still seek legal recourse for food poisoning or other one-time incidents under the bill.
No one spoke against the bill during Thursday’s floor session.