While I’m an advocate for the consumers overall, I often have to supress the urge to roll my eyes at some of the daft lawsuits that are brought against deep-pocket corporations. I mean, really, if you get hot coffee, does it really make sense to tuck it between your legs and pop the lid to add cream while you’re driving down the road? (McDonald’s lost a huge lawsuit over that one)
There are plenty of these stories – indeed my friend Randy Cassingham has written an amusing and depressing book about these stupid lawsuits called The True Stella Awards, which I highly recommend — but the latest lawsuit that’s brewing will make even the most hardened consumer advocates pause in wonder, I think.
According to The Washington Post, a coalition of lawyers are preparing a massive class action suit against soft-drink makers for selling soda in schools.
What the heck?
Okay, I know that soda makers offer significant bounties to schools that agree to feature their brands and sodas in machines on campus and even offer to split revenue from vending machines, but where in this entire situation is free will? Aren’t school administrators able to say “no, thanks” or “we’ll do it if you include waters, juices, and other healthy drinks in the machines too” or similar?
The article explains: The suit’s legal basis will be tied to the concept of “attractive nuisance: If somebody has something on his land like a swimming pool that he knows is attractive to kids and dangerous, then he has some obligation to keep the kids away from it,” Daynard said. “You want to keep kids away from dangerous objects, and a soda machine is demonstrated to be a dangerous object for kids.”
Um, and what about those terrible companies that sell flatware, including, gasp, knives that could cut children or forks that could be used to stab another kid? Or what about having a curb in front of your house that becomes a popular skateboard jump and then ends up the scene of a teenager slipping, falling, and injuring herself? Is the curb an “attractive nuisance”?
One more quote from the article: Victor E. Schwartz, a Washington lawyer who has advised many major companies on product-liability policies, said the case “would require a radical modification of traditional liability laws with an expansion of statutory consumer-protection claims.” However, he noted, Massachusetts is one of the few states in the country where plaintiffs do not have to demonstrate actual damage in a consumer-protection case — just that a violation occurred.
Am I wrong here? Are the soda manufacturers engaged in terrible behavior and deserve the full weight of the law dropping on their heads, or is this just another multi-million-dollar waste of taxpayer’s money as the courts are filled up with frivolous lawsuits and lawyers getting paid far more than they’re really worth?
As for us, we’re parents. We decide what our children will drink and we trust them and expect that they’ll be consistent and true to our familial rules about beverages, sweets and other foodstuff. No lawsuit needed.