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Amended Suit Against McDonald's Is Tossed

Obese plaintiffs had accused the company of using false advertising to entice children.

September 05, 2003|From Reuters

NEW YORK — A federal judge Thursday threw out a revised lawsuit against McDonald's Corp. that accused the world's biggest fast-food company of using misleading advertising to lure children into eating unhealthful foods that make them fat.

The ruling marked the second time that U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet dismissed the case brought on behalf of two youngsters who blamed their obesity, diabetes and other health problems on Big Macs and Chicken McNuggets.

Sweet said the plaintiffs had not followed detailed instructions that he gave when he first threw out the case. He told the plaintiffs they could submit a new filing with information backing up their advertising allegations. This time, he barred them from filing another version, quelling litigation fears the suit had sparked in the food industry.

"The plaintiffs have made no explicit allegations that they witnessed any particular deceptive advertisement, and they have not provided McDonald's with enough information to determine whether its products are the cause of the alleged injuries," Sweet said.

"Finally, the one advertisement which plaintiffs implicitly allege to have caused their injuries is objectively nondeceptive," he said.

The suit had raised fears in the food industry of a new wave of tobacco-like litigation against restaurants and manufacturers. Anti-tobacco lawyers attended a spring seminar in Boston that focused on the possibility of bringing more suits over fattening foods.

Indeed, when the judge threw out the first case in January, he left the door open to further litigation. In that ruling, he referred to Chicken McNuggets as a "McFrankenstein creation" made of elements not used in home cooking.

Lisa Howard, a McDonald's spokeswoman, said the company was pleased that the judge had dismissed the case.

"It is a total victory for common sense. The court has closed the books once and for all on this meritless case," she said. "As we've said all along, our menu can absolutely be part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle."

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