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I’m tired of this s–t! Tired, tired, tired! –Chris Rock A burger by any other name tastes just as fatty. –Shakespeare (paraphrased) Suing is a weapon all can wield — that’s what makes it so attractive and fascinating. Suing is a temptation all can succumb to — that’s what makes it so repellent yet infectious. Everyone who succumbs to the need to blame, to scare, to hurt, to win makes themselves a victim through their own precedent-based folly. The actual motivation and stated grounds for suing have as much in common as the principle in question and the dollars up for grabs. Some arguments do the work for you. Power-starved plaintiffs have in effect taken over every facet of daily life as the fear of getting sued has trumped the moral values with which the law used to be identified and find its source. At the bar where I work, I can get you drunk enough to sleep with your sister-in-law, and I’ll get tipped. But if you have a migraine, I can’t give you an aspirin. We fear being sued more than we want to help people, or even be helped ourselves. Old news, I admit. But every once in a great long while, a case heavy in hypocrisy stomps forth and separates itself from its thinner ranks, a case which screams for attention because it tells us so much about our legal system and ourselves. Jazlyn Bradley, 19, and Ashley Pelman, 14, of New York City, are suing McDonald’s because they are fat. Swear to God! Bradley is 5’6″ and weighs 270 pounds. Pelman is 4’10″ and weighs 170 pounds. The suing monster is 10’4″ and weighs 440 pounds and plans to make this precedent-setter a class action on behalf of all New York kids who have a chubby finger to point at the McDefendant. I thought the parents were to blame; no matter how much pressure kids pile on, parents control their children’s diets. Bradley’s father claimed in his affidavit that he “always thought McDonald’s was healthy for [his] children.” That takes the cake. And eats it, too. The two would regularly indulge two meals a day at the Golden Arches. That’s like getting your smoking buzz by sucking the exhaust out of a German car. Twice a day. Why doesn’t Bradley sue her father for parental ineptitude and lying under oath? She’s guaranteed to win one. Were the girls really misled? McDonald’s never denied it was fast food, never told America to come on down twice a day for over a decade and get fat. While the kids on your Happy Meal box look pretty healthy, consider the honesty the plaintiffs may have overlooked: Ronald himself always wore loose clothing, belying what is in all likelihood not a Herculean build. Birdie looks like she left her flying days behind her long ago. And Grimace … . There is a parallel precedent in tobacco litigation where plaintiffs sued because they were misled as to, or unaware of, the contents of cigarettes and their deleterious health effects. The difference being, to this day, Big Tobacco CEOs have the gall to look senators in the eye and state that “nicotine is not addictive.” When you buy heroin, Mr. Brownstone won’t deny you’ll be coming back. And whom aren’t we arresting? Since the McAddicts claim they were duped, what did they do to help themselves? Did they notice they were overweight years ago as they gorged themselves over a period of years on cholesterol candy and start tempering their diets? Did they at least jog to Mickey D’s twice a day? Did they do anything other than to get fed up with themselves and decide to take it out on someone else? Someone they could scapegoat into giving them a few dollars? A few dollars I know in my bones won’t find their way to the local gym? This is the new American concept of making it big. If you’re too uninspired to make it through skill, too lazy to make it through diligence, too pessimistic to try hard twice a day, take the dough from someone who has. Suing, in public perception and in practical use, has gone from being a tool anyone can use for protection to a plague no one is safe from. Anyone may enter this promiscuous lottery, no matter how weak their case. Unlike criminal cases, anyone can file suit for any reason the creatively depraved can conjure. All you need is the desire to sue. This case sounds like the suing stories I used to hear from lawyers while I bartended: � A man sued his wife for emotional trauma after she told all their friends he had been incapable of making her climax once in twelve years of marriage. This outburst after she had caught him in bed with, unoriginally, his secretary. � A man sued Calvin Klein after he was so distracted by a billboard displaying Lolita’s snug drawers, he crashed his car into a street sign — on the sidewalk. � An black man sued Encarta Encyclopedia for psychological trauma after his son attempted to look up the Niger River only to find erroneous spelling containing an excessive “g”. If these anecdotes are true, they prove my point. If they were improvised fictions, they really prove my point — lawsuits are anything a lawyer can make up … on the fly, over a beer, in a court. It’s that new American ingenuity. Feel self-righteous, unaccountable and profitable all at once. This case sadly evinces how we sue to shift taking responsibility for our actions to a richer entity. Instead of looking to solve the problem or even help themselves, the high-profile plaintiffs look to whine, to intimidate, to profit. Petty lawsuits aren’t the answer. Gimme money isn’t the answer. Shysters can’t be effective social policy instruments when their life-mission is being unscrupulous result-oriented sharks who bank contingency money while making a real cause look bad, look like something a shyster would use for a buck. What is profitable is acceptable. What is profitable is suits that are filed for and from greed. The irony is that the shysters are doing everything they can to resemble McDonald’s themselves: both work for volume, not quality; both advertise everywhere, on the lowest psychological levels; both thrive on phony smiles; both leave you feeling nauseous twenty minutes later; both are all too ready to brag about how many they’ve served for how much with their shared fetish for astronomical numbers for all to see: Billions and billions served; millions and millions collected. We shouldn’t be surprised McDonald’s is at the center of this suit. Where are our eyes directed? Where do our thoughts lead us? For not one day can I avoid seeing or thinking about the place. It’s an icon. We are drawn to the Mecca of our light-speed culture, for there the herd is fed. The real folly of this case is that the problem of burgeoning youth obesity is as real as the plaintiff’s solution of being enriched for accreted sloth and willed foolishness is unreal. An ostrich with her head in the sand ought not to sue for self-imposed ignorance; she then seems selfish and blame-driven rather than serious and justice-oriented. The plaintiff pair in the McDonald’s case are harming those who suffer real pangs of hollowing self-esteem right out of the bounds of respect by the society they need understanding and reform from, including themselves. The complicit plaintiffs are more guilty of exploiting youth obesity than the corporation they claimed disguised high-fat foods in the form of dripping burgers and greasy fries. The chain reaction will be as swift as it will be shocking. Youth across Gotham and the nation will stop exercising and constantly gorge themselves, desperately trying to gain enough pounds to qualify for the next bracket of compensation. One teen-ager will suffer a heart attack and the shyster will dance to the monotonous tune of a flatline’s beep. I ask the plaintiffs now who they really think is exploiting and misleading and harming obese youth. We must take incentive away from shysters because Supersized incentive is all they understand. I hereby propose a Shyster Tax for those from the dark side of the law: Anyone who files what a judge in good conscience can unequivocally call a shyster suit shall be taxed. Lots. If they’re eating up court resources, if they’re costing us money, if they’re making it harder for real plaintiffs to get their day in court, let them pay the price. If money is all they understand, the message will come across loud and clear and true. If they are filing legitimate suits, they have nothing to fear. If they are helping the devil take over my life, one case at a time, chase them out of our courts. Free-lancer Mitch Artman, who lives and writes in New York, is a frequent contributor to law.com. His e-mail address is [email protected]

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