TV: GWU Tied to 3 Big McDonald's Law Suits - HBO Documentary Monday

The George Washington University Law School, in a remarkable coincidence, has been tied to three famous (or infamous) law suits against McDonald's, as well as three different movies, one of which is premiering on HBO Monday evening.
June 23, 2011 - PRLog -- Entitled "Hot Coffee," the HBO special shows why the infamous law suit in which McDonald's was forced to pay damages to a woman who was scalded when its coffee fell into her lap was valid and the enormous damages warranted, and then uses the case as a springboard to show how large corporations misrepresented it, and used it as a justification to curb civil tort actions, even going so far as to invent so-called citizens' grass roots organizations seeking to limit law suits.  It highlights the use of civil tort actions to obtain compensation for injured victims.

The film was created by GWU Law School graduate Susan Saladoff who, after decades of experience as a trial lawyer, felt impelled to take time off to counter what she saw as the unfair misrepresentation and distortion about civil actions by companies that wish to avoid or limit liability for their mistakes.  One of the law courses she took, and apparently helped inspire her, was entitled "Legal Activism," although it's more popularly known as "Public Interest Law" or simply "Sue the Bastards."

By a remarkable coincidence, students in that same course some years later put together another major law suit against McDonald's, this time over the fat in its french fries.  Like the hot coffee law suit, it was originally labeled as frivolous and ridiculed, but, as with the coffee suit, McDonald's was forced to settle - this time giving the plaintiffs $12.5 million and a public apology, and agreeing to all of their demands.

In a further coincidence, the professor teaching the course, John Banzhaf, then used this second McDonald's suit as an example and inspiration for a new movement to use legal action as a weapon against obesity, much as he had earlier started a very successful movement using legal action as a weapon against smoking.  This new movement has now likewise been very effective, with no fewer than ten fat law suits which have been successful.

This in turn led Prof. Banzhaf to consult on still a third law suit against McDonald's, this one charging the fast food giant with contributing to the obesity of minors.  This third McDonald's law suit - which was also labeled as frivolous and ridiculed - has now been upheld by no fewer than five judges, and in currently being litigated.  The law suit also inspired the movie "Super Size Me" which, like the movie "Hot Coffee," won numerous awards.

Prof. Banzhaf appeared in the movie "Super Size Me," as well as a second one likewise focusing on the obesity crisis entitled "Waiting For My Real Life."  Both explored the use of civil tort actions as powerful weapons to be used against major social problems like obesity.

In short, three major originally-ridiculed but successful law suits against McDonald's, and three different movies, are all intriguingly linked to one course at one school of law.

Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
Creator, Banzhaf Index of Voting Power
2000 H Street, NW, Suite S402
Washington, DC 20052, USA
(202) 994-7229 // (703) 527-8418

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John F. Banzhaf III is a Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University Law School [] where he is best known for his work regarding smoking [], obesity [], etc.
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