Subway’s “Footlong” Sandwiches: Lawyers Denied Bigger Bite Than Plaintiffs

A few days ago, the Court of Appeals for the 7th U.S. Circuit threw out a class-action settlement that paid lawyers-but not plaintiffs-in a case filed against Subway for allegedly deceiving customers by selling “Footlong” sandwiches that were, in some cases, shorter than a foot long.

The dispute started in January 2013 when an Australian teenager measured his Subway Footlong sandwich and discovered that it was only 11 inches long. He posted a photo of the sandwich-lined up with a tape measure-on his Facebook page. A lawsuit ensued. Plaintiff’s lawyers sued for damages and injunctive relief in the U.S., seeking class certification. Later on, the suits were combined in a Wisconsin Federal court.
A $525,000 settlement in plaintiffs’ lawyer’s fees was reached and approved by a federal district judge. Additionally, Subway took several quality-control measures, including displaying a disclaimer on the company’s website. However, Theodore Frank, a class member and professional objector to hollow class-action settlements, objected arguing that the settlement enriched only lawyers and provided no “meaningful injunctive relief to class members.” Indeed, when filing the suit, lawyers neglected to consider whether the claim was even meritorious.
In fact, early discovery proved that the breads are pretty much the same and seldom, if ever, fall below the 12 inches threshold. As a consequence, judges in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit reversed the settlement as being an “abuse of the class-action process” since it “seeks only worthless benefits for the class” and “yields [only] fees for class counsel.” The opinion also mentioned that such action is “no better than [a] racket” and therefore, “should be dismissed out of hand.”
Best regards
und viele Grüße aus Charlotte
Reinhard von Hennigs