'Cheeseburger bill' puts bite on lawsuits
House passes legislation to curb fast-food obesity claims
The House passed a bill that would block class-action lawsuits against the makers of fast food on obesity claims.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday that would block lawsuits by people who blame fast-food chains for their obesity.
The "cheeseburger bill," as it has been dubbed in Congress, stems from class-action litigation that accused McDonald's of causing obesity in children.
The legislation's backers say matters of personal responsibility don't belong in the courts.
"As one judge put it, if a person knows or should know that eating copious orders of super-sized McDonald's products is unhealthy and could result in weight gain, it is not the place of the law to protect them from their own excesses," said Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisconsin, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
The bill seeks to thwart class-action obesity lawsuits against food manufacturers and restaurants.
In a lawsuit filed in 2002, two Bronx teenagers accused McDonald's of making them fat by serving them highly processed food that affected their health. A judge tossed out the case a year later, but an appeals court reinstated part of the suit earlier this year, according to published reports.
The legislation does not block all legal action against the food industry. A lawsuit would still be permitted if a person got sick from contaminated food.
Citing statistics that obesity among children has doubled in the past three decades, with one in three children currently overweight, some committee members argued that fast-food companies need to be held accountable for their harmful products.
"Congress has allowed the need of big corporations before the need of our children," said Rep. Bob Filner, D-California.
The House bill passed 307-119, but it faces an uncertain future in the Senate. A similar bill passed the House during the last Congress, but the Senate never acted on it.
About 20 states have passed similar legislation, according to reports.
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