Taking on the fast food industry in a court of law is rarely a good idea. Unless you have a watertight case, the world’s most powerful companies can call on an army of lawyers and legal experts to tear you apart and make you wish you’d kept that accidental stumble on a wet Burger King bathroom floor all to yourself. It can be a bloodbath.
However, despite the long history of litigious annihilation, some people still think they have a shot at taking the industry for a ride. As you might imagine, most of these cases are catastrophic failures. Conversely, this also means that several of the cases are very funny. To provide a stern warning to anyone who might fancy their chances a corporate giant, here are seven people who tried to sue fast food restaurants and failed spectacularly
1. We Didn’t Know
In 2003, two New York teenagers decided to try and take McDonald’s for everything they had by asserting that they were unaware that their daily diet of burgers and McNuggets was bad for their health. Despite the ironclad belief that they weren’t provided "sufficient information about the health risks" of a daily Big Mac, judge Robert W. Sweeney sensibly concluded that "Nobody is forced to eat at McDonald's," and thus threw the case out.
2. An Overflowing Bucket
Fast food adverts are typically far more exciting than the actual meal, but rarely do customers take them to task over the inconsistency. Not so, Anna Wurtzburger. In 2016, the New Yorker tried to sue KFC for $20 million by claiming that, despite “multiple purchases”, she had been unable to find a bucket that “overflowed” like the one she had spied on a company poster. The case never made it to court. In hindsight, $20 million may have been optimistic.
3. Taco Bail
The Doritos taco might be one of the most celebrated fast food items in recent memory, but it’s origins were, for a while shrouded in mystery. In 2013, super-max Colorado prisoner Gary Cole tried to sue Taco Bell for copyright infringement, claiming that he had invented the Doritos taco shell way back in 2006. Electing to represent himself, Cole’s case was dismissed when it became clear that he had a history of filing erroneous lawsuits.
4. Say Cheese
McDonald’s cheese has had a controversial history. In 2018, a couple from Florida attempted to sue the franchise for $5 million, claiming that, because they had asked for a Quarter Pounder without cheese and received one with, they were entitled to compensation. It was estimated that the actual difference in price should have been ¢30. The case was dismissed as “absurd”.
5. Point The Finger
One of the most infamous incidents in fast food history, this case revolved around a tub of Wendy’s chilli and a human finger. Anna Ayala attempted to sue the company after she had discovered a cooked digit in her dinner. The story went viral, and cost the chain an estimated $21 million in sales. When Ayala was discovered to have lied, she received a nine year jail term.
6. Ice Cold
Ice is, obviously, a prominent ingredient in iced coffee. However, this hasn’t stopped some people from trying to take advantage. Incredibly, two separate people have attempted to sue coffee chain Starbucks for putting “too much ice in their coffee”. Unsurprisingly, both cases were rejected, with one judge declaring that even “children” have figured out that more ice equals less liquid.
7. A Foot-Longshot
The Subway footlong is one of the easiest ways to fool yourself to thinking that a fast food lunch is going to be healthy. However, it wasn’t the calories that brought this item under legal scrutiny. In 2013, a teen posted several photos of so-called “foot-longs” alongside rulers showing them all to be around 11-inches in length. This caught the attention of several attorneys. It looked like the franchise would have to pay around $500,000 at one point, before a judge stepped in and declared it an issue of “common sense”.
As big, multinational conglomerates, there’s little doubt that most fast food businesses have at some point done something nefarious. However, it’s equally obvious that these cases never really stood a chance. They might have loads of money, but the McDonalds’ of this world aren’t going to just give it away.