As if the public hadn’t invented enough thin-ice reasons to sue restaurants, creative sorts hatched several bizarre new rationales this week for dialing an attorney at 1-800-COLLECT. But don’t think wolves in a three-piece lawyer’s getup were the only source of nightmares for the industry in recent days. As long as someone’s smartphone is charged, catching employees in a business-killing embarrassment is virtually a given, as events once again proved.
Here’s a rundown of what had litigators cheering and in-house counsels moaning, “What—again?”
1. Mustard as menace
A woman in Michigan has filed a lawsuit against the Jimmy John’s delivery chain, alleging that a franchised store was negligent in ignoring her request to forgo mustard and mayonnaise on her breadless sandwich.
According to local TV station WZZM, the plaintiff contends the condiments triggered an allergic reaction, leaving her unable to speak at a normal volume since the incident and causing her emotional distress and embarrassment. She asserts in the suit that she suffered coughing jags and fits of vomiting because she took a bit of the Billy Club Unwich.
However, the woman acknowledged that she continued to work after trying the sandwich, and that she called the Comstock Park store and complained about the blunder. A representative reportedly apologized and dispatched a delivery person to retrieve the offending sandwich.
The plaintiff, Lindsey Bresnahan, then took a weekend trip.
The amount of the damages she’s seeking has not been disclosed.
2. Yeah, but which eight?
A KFC customer is asking the Supreme Court of the State of New York to ease her disappointment over the size of chickens by deciding favorably on a legal request for $20 million in damages. The woman, Anna Wurtzburger, filed a lawsuit alleging that KFC was misleading the public in its advertisements for an eight-piece chicken dinner.
Wurzburger noted that KFC’s commercials for the $20 deal show a bucket overflowing with chicken. Yet the $20 Fill Up she purchased in July didn’t come close to filling the container, Wurzburger contended, though she allowed that there were indeed eight pieces of chicken inside.
Wurzburger wants to be compensated for what she characterizes as false advertising and misleading trade practices.
It remains to be seen if her action fares better than another recent lawsuit seeking damages for underfilling. A federal judge in California dismissed a case in August that sought damages from Starbucks for misrepresenting how much coffee was in its iced drinks. The suit noted that the volume was cut by the inclusion of the ice.
Another suit alleging underfilling of the chain’s hot coffees is apparently still pending.
3. ‘You let me marry him!’
Subway parted company with former spokesman Jared Fogle long before the TV star was sent to jail for his relations with underage girls, but the controversy continues to dog the sandwich chain. News emerged this week of a lawsuit filed by Fogle’s ex-wife, seeking damages from Subway for not warning her of the pitchman’s sexual proclivities before they were married.
Katie McLaughlin contends that the franchisor had heard allegations of Fogle’s pedophilia as early as 2004 but did not alert authorities. Not knowing any better, McLaughlin said, she married Fogle in 2010 and started a family.
The family would suffer emotional distress when their home was raided and Fogle was subsequently charged with sex crimes, McLaughlin said at a press conference this week. She wants Subway to compensate her and the children for that wallop.
4. Cold, hard facts
Maybe a temporary lapse in judgment prompted the employee of a Sonic Drive-In in Middletown, Ohio, to climb into the restaurant’s filled ice bin for a quick break from standing. But why, oh, why, would she have someone take a picture and post it on Facebook? Her name might not have been posted, but certainly some local acquaintances would recognize her.
And, indeed, one did—her boss. He fired the unnamed employee and chewed out three apparent enablers, then proved intelligent life forms weren’t alien to the unit. The manager, unidentified in local press reports, removed all of the ice, sanitized the unit and reached out to the local health department to report the incident and ensure all appropriate safety measures had been taken.
The authorities inspected the bin and okay its continued use—presumably as an ice container, not a couch.
5. First restaurant abuse of Facebook Live?
Facebook recently added a new feature that allows users to streamline video as it’s being captured—a capability similar to what the fans of Periscope can do with that social media platform. The implications for restaurant employers were graphically illustrated this week by early adapters working a shift at a Checkers in Philadelphia.
For 44 minutes, the co-workers boasted of having sex with customers inside the restaurant, dissing patrons by spitting in their food, and scrubbing the floor with burger buns instead of a mop.
The trash talkers apparently forgot the Facebook Live clip would remain viewable, because they soon learned their employer had seen it. Make that their ex-employer. The crew was fired, despite their protests that it was all a put-on, and Checkers issued a statement emphasizing its intolerance of such shenanigans.