Canadian Underwriter

"Fast food obesity" bill passed by U.S. House committee

January 30, 2004   by Canadian Underwriter

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The U.S. House judiciary committee has passed the "Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act", opening the door for federal legislation to stop lawsuits aimed at restaurants and other food service providers for purportedly causing obesity.
The bill responds to suits aimed at restaurants such as McDonald’s by people seeking damages for the negative health effects of obesity.
In House committee parlance, the bill intends to "prevent frivolous lawsuits against the manufacturers, distributors, or sellers of food or non-alcoholic beverage products that comply with applicable statutory and regulatory requirements". The bill would only apply to cases which would have been launched after its passage, but not those suits already in the courts.
In related news, U.S. President George W. Bush renewed his call for medical malpractice litigation reform following up on his "state of the union" address earlier this month. Speaking in Arkansas this week, Bush linked rising litigation costs to the rising cost of health care in the U.S. "I’m here to talk about one of the reasons why health care costs are going up. And that’s the fact that we’ve got too many darn lawsuits, too many frivilous and junk lawsuits that are affecting people.
He says medical liability raises the federal government’s health care costs by US$28 billion through Medicaid and Medicare. Part of this cost is "defensive medicine", unnecessary medical procedures conducted to avoid potential liability. Bush adds that the only ones making money through the current system are trial lawyers who receive 40% of every settlement.
He calls medical liability reform "a national issue that requires a national solution", but also called upon states to work on their own legislation, to stem the "litigation culture". "This litigation culture puts a sign up there saying, if you come to our state, you’re likely to get sued [as a doctor]."
The U.S. House has passed medical liability reform, but the Senate has been able to reach a compromise. "Those senators have got to understand that no one has ever been healed by a frivolous lawsuit," Bush says.

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