There has been a lot of publicity predicting that fast food litigation will be the next Big Tobacco litigation. However, despite a few well-publicized lawsuits (some of which have had the effect of changing the content of some companies’ food), there appears to be little basis for widespread and panic-inducing predictions.

There has been a lot of publicity predicting that fast food litigation will be the next Big Tobacco litigation. However, despite a few well-publicized lawsuits (some of which have had the effect of changing the content of some companies' food), there appears to be little basis for widespread and panic-inducing predictions. 2

Will fast food litigation be the next “Big Tobacco”? According to Weil, Gotshal & Manges’ Lianne S. Pinchuk, attempts to model fast food litigation after tobacco suits have generally failed and will likely continue to fail.

There has been little success in “Big Food” litigation so far, and state “cheeseburger bills” provide fast food companies with protections that weren’t afforded to tobacco companies. But, Pinchuk warns, a suit hitting the discovery stage could change the “Big Food” litigation landscape.

There have been few successes in litigation against Big Food, and most of the successes in obesity-related lawsuits have dealt with mislabeling or consumer fraud, which is unlikely to lead to damages awards akin to those seen in personal injury tobacco litigation.

Tobacco companies and fast food restaurants are not treated the same way by the courts, and such disparate treatment is likely to continue. Attempts to use tobacco litigation as a model for fast food litigation have generally failed and will likely continue to fail in the future.