Rejection of Subway “Footlong” Settlement Highlights Absurd Incentives of Class Actions

1ftIn early 2013, when Australian teenager Matt Corby took to social media to share a photo of his recently purchased Subway “foot long” sandwich next to a tape measure revealing that the sandwich measured only 11 inches in length, he never could have anticipated the “viral” chain of events that he had just set into motion.

Other Subway customers and media outlets soon descended on Subway franchises to undertake their own sandwich measurements, prompting the New York Post to announce that “Some Subway ‘Footlong’ Subs Don’t Measure Up.”   According to the Post, four out of seven footlong sandwiches randomly purchased at Subway restaurants in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens measured less than 12 inches in length (ranging from 11 to 11.5 inches). Continue reading

Seventh Circuit Judge Posner Rides into the Summer Sunset

posnerWe begin Fall 2017 blogging with an appreciative farewell.

This past Friday, September 1, US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit Judge Richard Posner announced his retirement, effective immediately. He served on the circuit for 36 years, having been appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981.

Judge Posner was a principled skeptic of lawyer-driven litigation which, not surprisingly, led us to discuss a number of his opinions here at the WLF Legal Pulse.

Most recently, in Eye Drops, Water Fountains for Cats, and the Demise of a No-Injury Class Action, we recounted the unusual analogy Judge Posner used in his majority opinion to support the court’s dismissal of an especially officious no-injury class action filed against the makers of eye drops. Continue reading

Food-Court Follies: Judge Grates Parmesan-Cheese Multidistrict Litigation

parma cheeseThanks to America’s regrettably litigious nature, the “Reasonable Person” is always busy. This prototypically average, ordinary human being is routinely called upon in legal disputes governed by common-law tort principles and asked: What would you think or do in this situation? One strain of litigation—consumer-fraud class actions—has kept the Reasonable Person especially occupied in recent years.

A recent court case asked the Reasonable Person to put on her “reasonable consumer” hat and determine the meaning of the term “100% Grated Parmesan Cheese” as it appears on containers of shelf-stable, processed shaky cheese.

In February 2016, inspired by overblown media stories, 15 lawsuits were filed in 6 different courts against 7 defendants (Kraft Heinz Co., Albertsons Cos., Target Corp., Wal-Mart Stores, ICCO-Cheese Co., and Publix Super Markets) alleging common-law and statutory violations for those companies’ false or misleading use of that statement. Continue reading

Food-Court Follies: Fraud Suits Fall Apart after Plaintiffs’ Candid Admissions During Discovery

ocean sprayAs many people learned from watching legendary radio and TV show host Art Linkletter (or from simply being parents), kids say the darnedest things. Similarly, those of us who follow class actions alleging misleading labeling of consumer goods have discovered that adult plaintiffs can say the darnedest things, too.

Three plaintiffs’ candid admissions during their depositions in two product-labeling suits recently revealed their claims to be entirely baseless. Regrettably, neither the plaintiffs nor their lawyers have been held accountable for the costs these frivolous lawsuits imposed on the federal courts, the defendants, and consumers. Continue reading

Class Actions Clothed in Righteousness: Appeals Court Rejects Bargain-Hunters’ Suits for Lack of Injury

nordstrom rackBy Abbey Coufal, a 2017 Judge K.K. Legett Fellow at Washington Legal Foundation who will be entering her third year at Texas Tech University School of Law in the fall.

Bargain shopping is not for the weary, but there is something thrilling about combing through items on tightly-packed circular racks, with the hope of hunting down the desired piece of clothing at a good price. Landing the perfect deal usually brings a feeling of satisfaction, and does not give rise to conflict with the retailer. But in America, even a bargain-finder who bought an unblemished sweater can turn around and sue the business on behalf of herself and countless other shoppers, claiming they were all fooled into making their purchases. Continue reading

Update: Another Instance of Drunk Suing Ushered Out of Court

fosters

A few months ago we blogged about a lawsuit where the plaintiffs alleged they were deceived by the “Hawaiian-ness” that Kona Brewing Company conveyed on their beer labels.  The case was emblematic of a series of suits alleging that because beers were seemingly marketed as “foreign,” but produced in a domestic location, the brewers tricked the public into making purchases.  In addition to Kona, the makers of Red Stripe, Sapporo, Kirin Ichiban, and Beck’s have all been dragged into court.

Luckily, those brewers who fought back have been winning.  As mentioned in that previous commentary, the makers of both Red Stripe and Sapporo successfully petitioned their respective courts to dismiss their plaintiffs’ cases.  We can now add Fosters to the list.  Because Fosters’ product labels specifically state that brewing occurred in Georgia and Texas, no consumer would reasonably believe that it was imported from Australia.

With defeats piling up, let’s hope that the plaintiffs’ attorneys behind these frivolous claims will put an end to their “drunk suing.”

FCA “Qui Tam” Relator Sanctioned for Lawyers’ Scheme to Manufacture Evidence

ethicsBy Bailey McGowan, a 2017 Judge K.K. Legett Fellow at Washington Legal Foundation who will be entering her third year at Texas Tech University School of Law in the fall.

A double agent, an undercover operation, and deceit: No, these aren’t the well-worn plot elements of the latest James Bond movie. They are some of the tactics in a law firm’s scandalous attempt to manufacture the proof needed to survive a motion to dismiss in a False Claims Act (FCA) case, Leysock v. Forest Laboratories. The elaborate scheme exhibits the lengths to which deputized FCA plaintiffs and their lawyers will go to pursue their cut of a qui tam lawsuit’s routinely lucrative recovery. The federal court’s sanction for such behavior—barring the use of information fraudulently obtained in the plaintiff’s opposition motion—was an appropriate and laudable response, one that should embolden inspire other judges overseeing big-money litigation to take similar action against such blatant misconduct. Continue reading