Parens Patriae: A Flawed Strategy for State-Initiated Obesity Litigation

By Hoke, John B. | William and Mary Law Review, April 2013 | Go to article overview

Parens Patriae: A Flawed Strategy for State-Initiated Obesity Litigation


Hoke, John B., William and Mary Law Review


TABLE OF CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION

I. HISTORY OF PARENS PATRIAE AND
   DEVELOPMENT OF THE MODERN DOCTRINE
   A. Modern American Doctrine of Parens Patriae
   B. Parens Patriae and Tobacco Litigation
II. INADEQUACIES OF PARENS PATRIAE AS A STRATEGY FOR
    OBESITY LITIGATION
   A. Deficient Causation
      1. Strong Causation in Early and Modern
         Parens Patriae Jurisprudence
      2. Strong Causation in State-Initiated
         Tobacco Litigation
      3. Causation Discrepancies Between Tobacco and
         Obesity Litigation
   B. Parens Patriae and Its Geographic Limitations
      1. Economic Harms and the Geographic
         Limits of Parens Patriae
      2. Environmental Harms and the Geographic
         Limits of Parens Patriae
      3. Health-Related Harms and the Geographic
         Limits of Parens Patriae
      4. Geographic Limits in Parens Patriae
         Obesity Litigation
      5. Massachusetts v. EPA and the Geographic
         Limitations of Parens Patriae
   C. Public Nuisance as the Underlying Tort for
      Parens Patriae Actions
      1. Public Nuisance and Its Historical Background
      2. Public Nuisance and Tobacco Litigation
      3. Products Liability Jurisprudence and
         Public Nuisance
      4. Environmental Jurisprudence and
         Public Nuisance
      5. Modern Public Nuisance and Parens
         Patriae Obesity Litigation
   D. Why Tobacco Litigation Settled
III. ALTERNATIVES TO PARENS PATRIAE
     OBESITY LITIGATION
     A. Other Attorney General Tools
     B. Subrogation
     C. Legislation
CONCLUSION

INTRODUCTION

In the United States today, roughly 36 percent of adults twenty years or older are obese, and 6.3 percent are considered extremely obese. (1) Since 1960, the number of adults who are obese has doubled. (2) An estimated 300,000 deaths annually are linked to obesity, (3) and the medical cost associated with treating obesity and its related diseases is a staggering $147 billion per year. (4) Obesity is now considered an epidemic, and unlike smoking, the nation's leading cause of preventable death, (5) the number of obese citizens is rising. (6)

Government has responded to this crisis in a variety of ways. Congress proposed bills such as the Healthy Lifestyles and Prevention America Act, (7) the Fit for Life Act, (8) and the Healthy Foods for Healthy Living Act. (9) Several states passed bans on the sale of junk food and soda in public schools. (10) Washington, D.C. recently enacted the Healthy Schools Act, a sweeping piece of legislation aimed at improving the quality of food served in public schools, encouraging physical activity, and promoting nutrition education. (11) Likewise, various executive agencies recently developed programs aimed at curbing the obesity epidemic. The Centers for Disease Control established the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity. (12) The U.S. Department of Agriculture began its "Eat Smart. Play Hard." campaign, (13) and perhaps most famously, First Lady Michele Obama created the "Lets Move!" initiative. (14)

Paralleling the proliferation of legislative and executive responses to the obesity epidemic are "obesity lawsuits," in which the plaintiffs allege that food producers and restaurants are responsible for making them overweight and unhealthy. (15) Courts tend to be skeptical of such obesity suits, (16) and Congress famously responded to such litigation with the American Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act, also known as the "Cheeseburger Bill." (17)

Perhaps in response to the failure of private-party litigation, health and nutrition advocates have urged state attorneys general to sue the food industry under their parens patriae authority. (18) Under the common law doctrine of parens patriae, a state attorney general may bring an action against a party that has harmed the health or economic well being of the citizens of the attorney general's state. (19) Proponents of attorney general-initiated parens patriae obesity suits look to the tobacco litigation of the mid-1990s as a template for such obesity litigation. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Parens Patriae: A Flawed Strategy for State-Initiated Obesity Litigation
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.