Pelman v McDonald’s Corporation (2003) H&FLR 2014-33

Ashley Pelman and Ors v McDonald’s Corporation and Ors (2003) H&FLR 2014-33

United States District Court (S.D.N.Y.)

22 January 2003

Coram: Sweet DJ

Appearing for the Plaintiffs: Mr Samuel Hirsch (of Samuel Hirsch & Associates)
Appearing for the Defendants: Messrs Thomas Quigley, Bradley Lerman and Bruce Braun (of Winston & Strawn) and Mesdames Anne Kimball and Sarah Olson (of Wildman, Harrold, Allen & Dixon)

Catchwords: New York – infant – McDonald’s – overweight – heart disease – diabetes – hypertension – high cholesterol – deceptive acts – negligence – puffery – failure to warn

Facts: The plaintiff was an infant who had consumed the hamburgers and other items sold by the defendant. She had become overweight and developed (inter alia) heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol. She issued proceedings aganst the defendant, alleging deceptive acts and practices breaching the Consumer Protection Act, N.Y. General Business Law, §349 and §350 (by failing to disclose the ingredients and/or health effects of their products) and the N.Y.C. Administrative Code, Ch. 5, 20-700 (in relation to the defendant’s marketing practises). She also alleged that the defendant had negligently sold products which caused negative health effects and which were addictive, and that it had failed to warn cusomers of the makeup of its products and the health-effects of consuming them.

The defendant sought summary dismissal of the complaint under r.12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Held: Dismissing the complaint with leave to re-plead –

1. The plaintiff had not identified an instance of deceptive acts or advertising to children, and therefore the allegations on these points had to be dismissed.

2. Obiter, that encouraging consumers to eat McDonald’s “everyday!” was mere puffery absent a claim that doing so would have particular health effects.

Coastal Communications Corp. v. Adams/Laux Co Inc, 40 USPQ 2d 1383-1996 (SDNY, 24 September 1996), considered.

3. An allegation of liability to consumers based on their over-consumption of products will fail if the effects of overconsumption are common knowledge. In order to state a claim it would be necessary to allege that the products are so extraordinarily unhealthy as to be (a) outside the reasonable contemplation of consumers, or (b) dangerous even in their intended use. The Court noted the significant processing undergone by the defendant’s products and gave leave to amend the complaint to raise allegations on the point.

4. For the claim to survive an application to dismiss, it would be necessary to show that the plaintiff ate at McDonalds on enough occasions to raise a question as to whether its products played a significant role in her health problems. The more often she ate there, the more likely it was that its products had caused her injuries. Further, the complaint would need to address any impact from other variables (for example, genetics).

5. A manufacturer will not be liable for a failure to warn of its products’ unhealthy attributes if the risks are sufficiently obvious without a warning. However, this does not apply where elements of the hazard are concealed or not reasnably apparent to the user.

Andrulonis v United States, 924 F. 2d 1210 (2d Cir., 1991); Liriano v Hobart Corp., 92 NY.2d 232, 677 NYS.2d 764, 700 NE.2d 303 (NY, 1998), followed.

Judgment

The Court’s judgment is available here.

Kalloponi Comércio de Alimentos v Unidentified Respondent (2010) H&FLR 2014-13

Kalloponi Comércio de Alimentos v Unidentified Respondent (2010) H&FLR 2014-13

Regional Labour Court of Rio Grande do Sul

26 October 2010

Coram: Not reported.

Appearing for the Appellant: Not reported
Appearing for the Respondent: Vilson Natal Arruda Martins

Catchwords: Brazil – workers compensation – McDonald’s – manager obesity – required to consume products – meal break – mystery shoppers – compensation – liability

Facts: The appellant operated a McDonald’s franchise in Brazil. It employed the respondent as manager of one of its restaurants over a twelve year period. It was alleged that over this time his weight increased from around 70 kilograms (154 pounds) to 105 kilograms (231 pounds), by which time he was classed as obese. The respondent alleged that this was caused by the appellant’s policy of using “mystery shoppers” to assess the cleanliness, quality and management of its stores, which resulted in him needing to taste hamburgers, fries, soft drinks and ice cream regularly. He further alleged that, during meal breaks, the appellant’s employees were provided with a meal consisting of a burger, fries and soft drink which could not be exchanged for cash or food stamps. He further asserted that his work required long and irregular hours with inadequate rest breaks.

The respondent sought compensation from the appellant for his obesity. The claim was upheld at first instance and compensation was awarded of R40,000 (Brazilian Reals). The employer appealed.

Held: allowing the appeal in part and rejecting it in part –

1. Although genetic factors and a sedentary lifestyle were possible causes of obesity, this did not relieve the employer of liability.

2. While it was the worker’s responsibility to adopt a healthy diet, the conditions of his employment had forced him to consume the employer’s products.

3. The compensation awarded was properly to be reduced from R48,000.00 to R30,000.00. However, the appellant was required to assist the respondent to cover the costs of medical treatment aimed at weight reduction.

The court appears to have had regard to the fact that master brewers and winemakers are regularly compensated for developing alcoholism as a result of their duties.

It appears dissenting judgments were entered but details are not available.

Judgment

A copy of the Court’s written reasons cannot be located. Details in this report were obtained from the press office of the Court, the website of the firm Barça & Associates, the accounts in the journals Zero Hora and Economia & Negócios, and the blogs Nosso Povo, and Blog da Saúde. Translations by Google.

An appeal was considered but appears not to have been pursued.