CNN Calls Legal Reform ‘Silly’

While the House of Representatives was getting serious about legal reform, CNN was calling it “silly” and other TV news outlets ignored it.The House passed the “cheeseburger bill” October 19 – a bill that makes people, not the food industry, responsible for consequences of their eating habits. The bill passed 307 to 119 and will go to the Senate.Andy Serwer on CNN’s “American Morning” October 20 stated that “the only thing sillier than suing McDonald's for being fat is passing a law preventing people from suing McDonalds from being fat.” But Serwer didn’t explain the drain that lawsuits create on the American economy. Serwer’s failure to mention the state of the legal system and the necessity for reform was not surprising. The Free Market Project study "Media Malpractice" showed that the media routinely omit or give incomplete coverage of tort reform. Serwer stated that “class action lawyers, fast food executives, litigious obese people, and Congress” were acting “foolishly.” Yet he ignored the benefits of personal responsibility in society and the cost of offloading that responsibility. The Free Market Project has reported on the John S. Tilley Ladder Co., which was driven out of business in early 2004 by fear of litigation even though the company was still profitable and says it never lost a lawsuit. According to company President Robert Howland, “When you buy a ladder, a quarter or more of the cost you pay is just for the insurance.” Allowing companies to protect themselves from going out of business and preventing people losing their jobs from lawsuits is hardly foolish. Litigation cost businesses 2 percent of U.S. Gross Domestic Product in 2004. Lawsuits against tobacco and asbestos have cost businesses billions and billions of dollars. In today’s suing state of mind, the food industry is a potential target for lawyers. In 2002, a lawsuit was filed against four fast food companies by Caesar Barber, who alleged that it was the companies’ fault that he was obese. Barber’s lawyer, John Banzhaf, then tried to organize a suit against fast food for children, saying the fact that the children’s parents took them to the restaurant was “legally irrelevant.”

Dan Gainor
Dan Gainor is The Boone Pickens Free Market Fellow and Vice President for Business and Culture for the Media Research Center