Banzhaf may have bad ideas that most people reject, but because people don't have a choice about getting sued, the lawyers almost always win. Not at first -- but eventually. They just keep suing until they do; they lost 700 lawsuits before they started winning against the cigarette makers. Banzhaf told me the food business is "the next tobacco."
Last month, the House passed a bill that would protect the food industry from obesity lawsuits. Makers of vaccines, guns and small planes already have special protections. But that kind of partial solution is a bad idea. It prevents one injustice by enacting another: It would give the fast-food industry an exception to the laws that govern other businesses with less political clout. We should all be equal under the law.
The legal system should be reformed so people bear the consequences of their own bad choices. The best solution would be to make people who file baseless lawsuits pay the costs of defending against them. "Loser pays," that system is called, and that's the way it works in most of the civilized world. America's tort lawyers cleverly call loser-pays the "the English Rule," as if it's an odd British idea. It's not. It's the "Rest-of-the-World Rule." Only America suffers under the bizarre "American Rule," which allows lawyers to sue again and again, while forcing others to pay. Loser-pays would bring some justice to their victims.