According to Kimberly Halpern’s lawsuit, her family was visiting a Staten Island branch of the kid’s pizza-and-games emporium when a terrifying cloud of flying insects emerged from a vent and repeatedly stung her son Austin, 4, sending him to an emergency room. Now he’s developed a psychological fear of the whole Chuck E. Cheese entertainment package. A spokeswoman for the restaurant “said that no one else was stung that day, and an exterminator’s visit showed ‘no evidence of a swarm of killer gnats.'” (Janon Fisher, “Suit Bites Chuck E. ‘Fleas'”, New York Post, Nov. 19).
Correspondent R.C. directs our attention to the curious claim of “harm” by the last-named plaintiff:
Animal rights activists have asked a state judge to stop foie gras production in New York, saying the ducks used are overfed to such an extent that they are diseased and unfit for sale under state law.
The lawsuit, if it succeeds, could spell the end of foie gras production in America, a goal animal rights groups have long sought. The two Sullivan county farms that are defendants in the suit are the only foie gras producers in the country, other than a Northern Californian foie gras farm that may shut down under a California state law banning the industry….
The first challenge the suit faces is to convince a judge that the animal-rights activists who filed the suit have suffered enough harm to allow them standing to sue. The plaintiffs in yesterday’s suit offered several ways that they had been harmed by the foie gras industry.
One plaintiff, Caroline Lee, claims that the state’s regulatory departments are misspending her tax dollars by inspecting birds raised for foie gras production without concluding they are diseased. Another plaintiff, an animal rescue organization, Farm Sanctuary, claims its employees have been “aesthetically and emotionally injured” by being exposed to the “suffering” of abandoned ducks that they rescue from foie gras production. Another plaintiff, a New York restaurateur, Joy Pierson, claims that her decision not to serve foie gras has caused her to lose customers at her two Manhattan restaurants, Candle 79 and Candle Café, according to the complaint.
That’s restaurant bad boy Anthony Bourdain (Kitchen Confidential), on Chicago’s foie gras ban. Bourdain told interviewer Baylen Linnekin that if America does turn into a Singapore-style nanny state, “I can only hope we’ll have food as good as they do.” Asked about fast food: “People should be teased and humiliated for eating at McDonald’s,” he says. “I don’t think we should legislate them out of business.” (“Anthony Bourdain, Just Like Me: Is the Kitchen Confidential author-turned-television star a libertarian?”, AFF DoubleThink, Oct. 29).
Police officers Mark Landavazo and Henry Gabaldon say three rogue employees at the Burger King in Los Lunas, N.M., spitefully (or was it company policy?) put marijuana on their hamburgers, so they want the fast-food chain to pay them money for “personal injury, negligence, battery and violation of fair practices”. (“N.M. Cops Sue Burger King Over Marijuana-Laced Hamburgers”, AP/FoxNews.com, Nov. 7).
The infamous class action litigation seeking to blame McDonald’s for the obesity of putative class members is going forward, having survived a third motion to dismiss. (Mark Hamblett, “N.Y. Judge Rebuffs McDonald’s Motion to Dismiss Deceptive Ad Claims”, New York Law Journal, Sep. 22). Judge Sweet’s opinion will be posted to the AEI Liability Project Documents in the News page later today. I discuss the Pelman case in my Taxonomy of Obesity Litigation paper. The failure of the motion means that, unless McDonald’s can persuade Judge Sweet to bifurcate discovery to resolve class certification issues first, the plaintiffs will be able to impose millions, and perhaps tens of millions, of dollars of litigation expenses on McDonald’s if they dare to defend themselves instead of buying off the class. Copycat litigation is likely.
Ironically, yesterday was the day that the folks at the Bizarro-Overlawyered site chose to attack pending legislation shutting down such ludicrous suits as “pure hype” because there supposedly were no such suits. (The House already passed the bill in a bipartisan 306-120 vote.) It’s a mystery to me why the special interest group of the litigation lobby is devoting so many resources trying to shut down legislation that they claim makes no difference. Earlier at Overlawyered: Apr. 20, 2005; Jan. 27, 2005; Sep. 4, 2003. Cross-posted at Point of Law.
“It turns out the trans fat secrets Colonel Sanders is keeping from his customers—information so arcane even a medical specialist cannot reasonably be expected to know it—is contained in a ‘Nutrition Guide’ on KFC’s Web site and on big, conspicuous posters in KFC outlets.” (Jacob Sullum, “The Fried Logic of Food Police”, Reason.com, Aug. 18). See Jun. 14, Jun. 20.
Peter Lattman and the WSJ have a roundup (Jun. 26).
Councilman Joel Rivera, who heads the New York City Council health committee, likes that idea on grounds of protecting city residents from their own choices (as opposed to on grounds of protecting neighbors against traffic, litter, etc.) (“Councilman: Limit fast food places to fight fat”, AM New York, Jun. 21; Carl Campanile and Mathew Charles, “Make That Fast Food ‘To Go’: Council Big”, New York Post, Jun. 22; KipEsquire, Jun. 22; The Rant Shack, Jun. 22). Similarly, from Ireland: Feb. 17, 2004.
“KFC may be finger-lickin’ good, but a consumer group is suing the chain over the kind of fat used to fry the food. Dr. Arthur Hoyte, a retired physician from Rockville, Md., and the Center for Science in the Public Interest, want a judge to order Kentucky Fried Chicken to use other types of cooking oils or make sure customers know about trans fat content immediately before they make a purchase.” (“Colonel Sanders Under Attack for Trans Fat Content”, AP/WTOP, Jun. 13). For more on food suits, see our Eat, Drink and Be Merry page; for more on the nanny-maniac CSPI and its coercive designs on our menu choices, see Jan. 20 and Feb. 7, 2006; Feb. 25, 2005; and Sept. 19, 2003.
More: Peter Lattman notes (Jun. 14) that “According to the story on the suit in today’s New York Times, fast-food chains began using trans fats in the 1980s after nutrition groups demanded that the chains stop frying in beef tallow and palm oils. Nowadays, trans fats are considered more harmful than saturated fat.” Plus Jonathan Adler and commenters, Jacob Sullum.
Diners who order shellfish, such as mussels, assume the risk of encountering broken pieces of shell, ruled a New York judge who threw out a Long Island woman’s lawsuit against the Blue Moon restaurant in Rockville Centre attempting to recover for injuries arising from her encounter with the allegedly defective plate of mussels marinara. (“Judge Shucks Shellfish Suit”, WCBS, undated, about Jun. 7). More: Lattman, Jun. 12.