You’d assume that a restaurant might feel nervous about a pending lawsuit. But the truth is, food lawsuits happen all the time. Just think about it – big chains like McDonald’s and Burger King have locations all around the world. With all of the burgers they serve daily, there’s no way they can get it right all the time.
Some lawsuits are much more serious than others, though. For example, if a restaurant happened to spread salmonella due to undercooked or contaminated beef, that’s a lot worse than a lawsuit against an individual employee who was rude. Most of the time, these lawsuits are quickly thrown out. Other times, they end up gaining some steam and turn into class-action suits.
That means that if a large group of people were affected by the restaurant mistake, they can gather together and receive legal counsel. Typically, that group will be eligible for some sort of reimbursement, whether it’s money or products.
Here are some of the most notable food lawsuits. Some dominated headlines back in the day. Others are just plain goofy.
1. McDonald’s Quarter Pounder Lawsuit
This 2018 case is a real puzzler.
After a couple entered a Fort Lauderdale McDonald’s location and discovered cheese on their Quarter Pounders, they became furious. You might ask, “Don’t Quarter Pounders come with cheese?” Well, yes. They do. But these customers couldn’t believe that they were charged the same exact price when they asked for the cheese to be removed. Even more ridiculous, these dairy-free customers asked for $5 million for this travesty.
2. The Nutella Lawsuit
Okay, so nuts are considered healthy.
But nobody said Nutella was all that healthy, right? Well, one judge didn’t agree. They actually sided with the mom who fed the hazelnut spread to her kids every morning, assuming it was good for them. A class-action suit was created for people who bought it between 2008 and 2012. And the Nutella company had to pay out $3.05 million.
3. The Vita Coco and O.N.E. Coconut Water Claims
Coconut water has always been pegged as a hydrating choice.
But supposedly, it’s not as hydrating as you may have thought. In 2012, the enhanced water brand had to pay out a $10 million in a class-action lawsuit. Apparently, their product didn’t contain nearly as many electrolytes as customers were lead to believe. Let this be a lesson to all beverage companies out there – your advertising can’t be misleading when it comes to health benefits.
4. The Taco Bell Salmonella Lawsuit
No one wants to hear Taco Bell and salmonella mentioned in the same sentence.
However, in 2010, a man from Michigan sued the parent company of Taco Bell. He ate four beef tacos and afterward got dangerously sick with salmonella. After having to handle a bunch of expensive hospital bills, the dissatisfied customer felt like Taco Bell should pay up. Consequently, law firm Schmidt & Clark revealed that over 150 people in total were affected by the bad beef over the span of a few months.
5. The McDonald’s Hot Coffee Lawsuit
This one was legendary and even got parodied on Seinfeld.
Before this case, nobody thought you could sue a company for making a hot beverage too hot. But there was a legitimate reason why this lawsuit took place. In 1992, 79-year-old Stella Liebeck purchased a cup of coffee from the McDonald’s drive-thru and accidentally spilled it on her lap. She sued the entire fast food chain for damages.
6. The Benihana Blogger Lawsuit
Benihana is definitely an entertaining establishment.
But, nobody really seems to rave about the actual food. In fact, a blogger named Mark Makhou dared to talk negatively about the Benihana experience on his blog in 2011. The restaurant took such offense that they actually sued him over it, stating that Makhou misrepresented his visit for publicity. They wanted $18,000 in damages.
7. The Red Bull Lawsuit
Nobody actually thought that Red Bull would give you wings.
But most people do expect the drink to energize them. But according to Snopes, the company faced a lawsuit in 2014 because it didn’t give the energy it promised to one individual. Eventually, the Red Bull corporation did offer the individual a settlement. Reportedly, though, they maintain that they didn’t really think they were in the wrong.
8. The Popeye’s Spork Lawsuit
This one falls into the ridiculous category.
In 2016, a customer initiated a lawsuit against Popeye’s because one of the fast food chain’s employees gave him just a spork to eat his chicken with — not a knife. Since the customer couldn’t cut his meal, he choked. Eating fried chicken with a knife is already pretty rare, though. So the whole lawsuit is a bit confusing. The strangest part about it is that, according to Eater, the customer worked as an attorney.
9. Subway’s Lost Inch
Surely you know the $5 Footlong song by heart. It was a successful campaign for Subway.
But here’s the problem – the sandwiches technically weren’t footlongs. They were off by an inch. A $520,000 class-action lawsuit against the company gained some steam. But a judge eventually threw the case out, mostly because bread often shrinks during the baking process. Still, Subway vowed to try harder to keep their bread uniform throughout their many locations.
10. Papa John’s Texting Lawsuit
This one’s more about technology than food, but it still counts.
In 2012, Papa John’s was forced to face a $250 million lawsuit because the company couldn’t stop spamming their customers with text messages. According to CNN, the pizza joint sent out 500,000 unwanted messages in early 2010. Sometimes, the texts came as a chain in the middle of the night. Even worse, many of the customers reportedly never opted-in for the messages in the first place.
11. Chipotle’s Food Poisoning Lawsuits
Chipotle has been sued for a ton of reasons, but this one was especially noteworthy.
The popular fast food company allegedly caused approximately 700 cases of food-related illness in 2018. And they had to face the music for it. “We have handled hundreds of claims against Chipotle as this is Chipotle’s seventh food poisoning outbreak in the last three years,” one of the plaintiff’s attorneys, Ron Simon, said to Dayton Daily News. “These lawsuits will force Chipotle to change its ways and make its food safer for everyone not just in Powell, Ohio, but across the United States.”
12. The McDonald’s Napkin Lawsuit
Ever thought napkins could cause a controversy?
They certainly did in this case. Webster Lucas filed a $1.5 million civil lawsuit against the McDonald’s corporation after an employee only gave him one napkin with his order. Lucas ended up getting into a verbal fight with the manager, who reportedly spewed a few racist remarks.
13. Chobani’s False Claims
Chobani makes some good yogurt. But, a few people thought the company advertised in a deceptive way.
In 2014, the Greek yogurt company was accused of “not being Greek.” Apparently, Chobani manufactures its product in the United States. Moreover, most Chobani employees are reportedly not of Greek descent. The yogurt company didn’t think much of the lawsuit, though, and suggested that their actual customers knew that Greek was just a style of yogurt.
14. The Sriracha Factory Lawsuit
Things got spicy…
It can be beneficial to live in a factory town because factories provide jobs. But it’s supposedly no treat to live by the sriracha plant. Why? Because it smells. In 2013, the city of Irwindale in California decided to sue sriracha supplier Huy Fong Foods. They claimed the Huy Fong plant made the entire city smell like spicy chili.
15. The Froot Loops Lawsuit
They taste like fruit, but spoiler alert, they don’t contain fruit.
Still, that didn’t stop multiple people from trying to sue Kellogg’s over the years. They believed the cereal’s name makes it seem like fruit (or, “froot” if we’re being accurate here) is involved. Federal judges have, thankfully, rejected the claims multiple times. But it’s not stopping people from trying again. What would Toucan Sam think?
16. Burger King’s Bathroom Lawsuit
This recent lawsuit is, frankly, a little embarrassing.
A man got stuck in a locked bathroom at a location in Wood Village, OR. Despite trying to help him, Burker King staff and customers couldn’t stop laughing at the trapped man’s expense. To help make up for the situation, the BK location promised him free Burger King meals for life. But, they reportedly didn’t hold up the offer. So, he sued them for $9,026.16 – the price for a Whopper meal per week until his passing.
17. Wendy’s Data Breach
Wendy’s always seems like a perfect dinner suggestion.
But you may want to be careful on your next visit. In 2016, Wendy’s admitted that they faced a company data breach. In fact, some of their locations discovered malware in their systems. That’s understandable in this day and age. What’s not understandable is the fact that Wendy’s took a long time to admit this to customers. So, naturally, there was a lawsuit.