What: All Issues : Justice for All: Civil and Criminal : H.R. 339. Food Industry Lawsuits/Vote on Final Passage of a Bill to Shield the Fast Food Industry from Lawsuits Alleging that the Consumption of Fast Food Caused Weight-Related Health Problems Among Consumers. (2004 house Roll Call 54)
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H.R. 339. Food Industry Lawsuits/Vote on Final Passage of a Bill to Shield the Fast Food Industry from Lawsuits Alleging that the Consumption of Fast Food Caused Weight-Related Health Problems Among Consumers.
house Roll Call 54     Mar 10, 2004
Progressive Position:
Nay
Progressive Result:
Loss

Protecting consumers from delinquent corporations has been a hallmark of progressive legislation since the industrial revolution. In recent years, progressive lawmakers have attempted to hold tobacco companies, firearms manufacturers, pharmaceutical firms, and, in this present case, fast food chains liable for alleged harms to consumers. Conservative lawmakers, conversely, have advanced legal reforms-so-called tort reforms-which aim to protect corporations from paying large sums to injured consumers. The subject of this vote was final passage of a bill which would prohibit lawsuits in both state and federal courts against fast food restaurants, food manufacturers and distributors based on claims that the food contributed to consumers' obesity and related health problems. Progressives opposed the legislation as a way to protect the legal rights of consumers. In their view, consumers should not be prevented from seeking legal remedies for alleged health problems caused by the consumption of fast food. Progressives were also concerned that the legal protections contained in the bill could be interpreted broadly to shield producers of harmful dietary supplements like ephedra from legal accountability for any health problems or death allegedly caused by the use of their product. A third objection raised by Progressives involved the sale of downed animal meat to humans. According to Progressives, provisions in the legislation could be used to protect renegade meat producers who illegally sell downed meat to humans from legal accountability for any negative health consequences caused by the consumption of downed animal meat (downed meat comes from animals who cannot walk or stand-often because they are too diseased to do so-and has been linked to outbreaks of E. coli, mad cow disease, salmonella, and other deadly food-borne pathogens). Conservatives voted in favor of the legal protections for the fast food industry as a way to protect corporations from what they characterize as frivolous lawsuits. Those lawsuits, Conservatives argued, cost fast food chains millions of dollars in legal fees which ultimately harm the estimated 12 million workers employed in the fast food industry. On a vote of 276-139, the legislation was adopted and the measure was sent to the Senate for consideration.

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