High Price for Popcorn, Higher Price for Taxpayers

By: Mike Seinberg

A Michigan man is fed up with the price of popcorn at the movie theater. Who isn’t? Everyone knows that food at the theater is overpriced and they do it because you’re a captive audience. But the gentleman in question took it to the proverbial next level when his local theater stopped allowing people to bring in their own food, which he’d been doing. His solution? A class action lawsuit to end what he calls price gouging.

Most people would chalk this up as just another frivolous lawsuit, but here in NY, it hits much too close to home in the form of some proposed legislation by Assemblyman Dinowitz (D, Bronx). The proposed law would suddenly take powers that until now, were in the hands of the Attorney General and drop them in the hot little hands of every hungry trial lawyer in the state.

The law, which would require a minimum recovery of $1000 per plaintiff and allow for an additional recovery of $5,000 per plaintiff in cases of willful violation of the law.  Moreover, it doesn’t even clearly define price gouging and relies on the court to define the violation on a case-by-case basis. The clear potential for abuse of such a law is the very reason why it should not be enacted. The next thing you know we’ll see lawsuits against every convenience store over the high price of Doritos.

If this legislation were to pass, a lawsuit could be brought against a gas station inadvertently overcharging by $0.03 per gallon of gas.  If they had 1000 customers who bought ten gallons of gas, they would have inadvertently overcharged their customers by $300. With this new law in place they could face $1,000,000.00 in potential lawsuits.  If this power, designed for the Attorney General got into the hands of private attorneys, we would see a flood of lawsuits like these hurting the business climate in our state.

It would be wise for all those concerned to dismiss this case in Michigan and vote down this proposal in NY. If both go forward, prices will only keep rising to cover the cost of lawsuits. Wait, might that be construed as further price gouging?

Just yesterday, this legislation passed the Assembly and was delivered to the Senate.  Contact your elected official here and urge them to vote against this bill!


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