Food and restaurant companies, fearing they would be hammered with enormous judgments, as the tobacco industry was, have waged an aggressive campaign to make it impossible for anyone to successfully sue them for causing obesity or obesity-related health problems.

They have had success. At least twenty states have enacted versions of a “common-sense consumption” law. They vary slightly in substance, but all prevent lawsuits seeking personal injury damages due to obesity from ever being tried in their courts. Other states have similar legislation pending.

Although plaintiffs’ lawyers are confident there are ways around the new state laws, the measures, along with a class-action overhaul bill President Bush signed into law, probably will make it harder for lawyers in obesity cases to win the kind of large awards seen in tobacco cases.