Assembly, Senate Committees Reject Bills To Grant Food Companies Immunity From Obesity-Related Lawsuits
Two legislative committees on Tuesday voted to defeat bills that would have granted immunity to fast food restaurants and some other food makers in lawsuits alleging that the restaurants and food makers were liable for customers' weight gain or health problems, the Tri-Valley Herald reports.
The Assembly Judiciary Committee defeated a bill (AB 173) by Assembly Member Guy Houston (R-Livermore). The committee in April rejected the bill but agreed to reconsider an amended version specifying that the legislation would provide immunity to food sellers only in cases of obesity or weight gain.
The California Chamber of Commerce, California Restaurant Association and California Grocers Association supported the bill. Groups including the Consumer Attorneys of California, American Heart Association and Consumer Federation of California opposed the bill (Richman, Tri-Valley Herald, 5/4).
Houston said, "I think people should take responsibility for their own actions and own decisions. If you're that naive that you do whatever the TV commercial says, that's not right. You've got nobody to blame but yourself."
Houston said the state instead should educate residents about healthy eating habits instead of allowing some lawsuits against food sellers.
Critics say the bill would not have improved such education efforts and instead might encourage fast food chains and other food companies to continue to advertise high-fat, high-calorie products to children and other consumers. Opponents of the bill also noted that no lawsuits on the topic have been filed in California so far, and those filed in other states have been dismissed (Lawrence, AP/San Jose Mercury News, 5/1).
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted against a "very similar" bill (SB 937) by Sen. Sam Aanestad (R-Grass Valley), the Herald reports.
Aanestad said, "This was a simple measure that says you can't sue your local restaurant just because you have gained weight over the years," adding, "Each individual must be personally responsible for their eating habits -- and you shouldn't be able to sue someone else for financial gain for these decisions" (Tri-Valley Herald, 5/4).