12 Ridiculous Reasons People Sued Fast-Food Chains

Too much ice! Not enough chicken! These customers had all sorts of complaints, and they wanted the offending notable fast-food chains to hear them.

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ronald mcdonald statue sitting on a bench at mcdonalds

Beyond hot coffee

You can’t talk about fast-food lawsuits without talking about the most infamous of them all: the hot coffee lawsuit. In 1992, 79-year-old Stella Liebeck’s McDonald’s coffee spilled all over her when she was trying to remove the lid. It’s certainly easy to make the “Hot coffee was hot?! No way!” joke when talking about the hot coffee lawsuit, but it was a more serious matter than that criticism suggests. She suffered third-degree burns that required skin grafts, and ended up suing McDonald’s after they neglected to reimburse her $10,000 medical bills. So, despite its notoriety, it really wasn’t that ridiculous—especially when compared to these other seriously wacky and petty fast-food lawsuits.

Check out more crazy facts about McDonald’s!

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Taco Bell
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Prices may vary

One of the most recent eyebrow-raising fast-food lawsuits targeted Taco Bell and their parent company, Yum! Brands. In September 2019, a New Jersey couple filed a lawsuit, alleging that they purchased two of Taco Bell’s “$5 Chalupa Craving Boxes” and were charged more than five dollars for each. The total for the two boxes was $12.18, before tax, to be exact. The couple was not happy about what they saw as false advertising. They requested compensation for “the time wasted driving to Taco Bell [and] the gasoline expended to drive their vehicle to the subject Taco Bell,” arguing that it was the $5 price point, advertised in a Taco Bell commercial, that “induced” them to make the trip. The case went to federal court in October, with Taco Bell spokespeople arguing that the commercial they saw contained a “prices may vary” disclaimer.

You won’t believe these other outrageous lawsuit stories are true!

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close up on starbucks coffee sign
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Ice ice baby

Another rather comical lawsuit targeted coffee behemoth Starbucks for the amount of ice they were putting in their drinks. The plaintiff claimed that Starbucks was loading up their drinks with almost half ice, skimping on the actual coffee. Therefore, consumers were getting far less than the amounts of coffee suggested by the advertised drink sizes. But the judge ruled that the argument held no water (so to speak). When the case was dismissed, U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson summed it up pretty well: He said that “a reasonable consumer” ordering an iced drink knows “that the drink they receive will include both ice and tea.” Go figure. A Starbucks spokesperson also claimed that their employees will happily re-prepare the drink if anyone is dissatisfied with the ice-to-drink ratio.

Learn about the petty conflicts that changed history.

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close up on mcdonalds sign

Not so happy

Yes, this really happened: A father sued McDonald’s for marketing Happy Meals to children. You know, Happy Meals that are basically synonymous with kids’ meals. It is a little more complicated than that—but not much. Antonio Bramante, a resident of Quebec, was a regular at McDonald’s, usually bringing at least one of his young children with him on his visits. His complaint? The Happy Meal advertisements were deliberately situated right at children’s eye level, with their collectible toys in full display. So his kids would naturally start begging for a Happy Meal so that they could get a new toy, and Bramante would feel “pressured” to comply—but not by his kids. By McDonald’s. Questionable parenting tactics aside, Canada does have a law prohibiting advertising to children under 13. There are exceptions for store windows, children’s magazines, and advertisements for live kid-oriented shows. Bramante claimed that McDonald’s did not count as one of these exceptions; McDonald’s claimed that it did. A Quebec judge declared the suit valid, but no ruling has been reached yet.

Do you know about the countries that have banned McDonald’s altogether?

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SPENCER , WISCONSIN, October, 16, 2015 Wendy's Restaurant Sign on a Storefront Wendy's is an international food chain of stores and was founded in 1969


Here’s another of the more infamous fast-food lawsuits: the time a woman sued Wendy’s after finding a human fingertip in her bowl of chili. What sounds like one of the oft-circulated gruesome fast-food urban legends is in fact a true story. But it was not a story of a hapless customer finding a body part in her meal. The woman, Anna Ayala, had planted the fingertip in the chili herself, hoping to score some dough from the lawsuit. It was, indeed, a real fingertip; her husband’s coworker had lost his fingertip in a work accident and then willingly given the severed digit to Ayala’s husband to settle a debt. The truth really is stranger than fiction! Ayala and her husband ended up pleading guilty to conspiring to file a false claim and attempted grand theft. They both spent time in prison.

Think that was bad? Read about more of the world’s dumbest criminals!

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Dunkin' Donuts sign on a wall.

A high-steaks suit

In 2017, a Queens resident sued Dunkin’ Donuts for the contents of its Angus Steak & Egg sandwich. She apparently felt blindsided by the fact that the meat on the sandwich was a regular ol’ beef patty, not an actual cut of steak. She wanted Dunkin’ to call a steak a steak and played the classic “false advertising” card. And, to be fair, the commercials for the sandwich did make a pretty big deal about the steak component of the sandwich (though they did say it contained “angus beef” at the end). Dunkin’ argued that, since the sandwich’s ingredient list was readily available to all potential customers, they’d done nothing wrong. According to topclassactions.com, the suit also led to many in-depth discussions about the definition of the word “steak.” What a time to be alive. As of June 2019, there was still no verdict.

Check out these hilarious examples of irony in real life.

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close up on Burger King restaurant exterior
Savvapanf Photo/Shutterstock

Makes no cents

The fact that things cost different amounts of money at different locations is a fact of life. But that didn’t stop one New York woman from suing Burger King over 20 cents. Her woes sprang from the fact that a large Coke cost 89 cents at the Burger King closest to her—but she could get one for only 69 cents at a slightly farther Burger King. She sued Burger King for $100 as recompense for the extra distance she had to walk for the cheaper soda. Burger King won the suit despite not even showing up in court.

If you thought that was strange, don’t miss these hilarious stories from drive-through workers.

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Krispy Kreme Doughnuts
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A fruitless suit

Los Angeles resident Jason Saidian went big with his lawsuit against Krispy Kreme, suing them for five million dollars in 2016 because some of their fruit-flavoured desserts did not contain real fruit. (He also argued that the Maple Bar and other maple products contained no actual maple ingredients.) He argued that, if the sign in front of a donut said “Glazed Raspberry Filled,” that donut had better contain actual raspberry—but a quick glimpse at the ingredients proved that this was not the case. To be fair to Saidian, he did do his research, arguing that some of the desserts did contain the ingredients in their name—the Glazed Lemon Donuts contained real lemon juice, for instance. He believed that this inconsistency was grounds for a lawsuit. But eventually even he lost interest in it; the suit was voluntarily dismissed in 2017.

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Close up of KFC logo and exterior
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K-F-C you in court

In 2016, a New York woman filed a lawsuit against KFC for (guess what) false advertising. What was the issue this time? The “fill-up” chicken bucket she received was not full of chicken—despite the fact that the commercials showed a bucket overflowing with fried goodness. The commercials, she said, marketed it as enough food for an entire family. “They’re showing a bucket that’s overflowing with chicken, [but] you get half a bucket,” she told the New York Post. “It doesn’t feed the whole family.” KFC offered her a pair of gift certificates to assuage her disappointment, but she was having none of it and filed a lawsuit…only for the courts to dismiss the complaint.

We’ve rounded up the most Canadian headlines of all time!

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Close up on Jimmy John's logo on the exterior of a buildin
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There’s something missing…

Fast-food workers aren’t perfect. Sometimes they get orders wrong. Asking for a redress of your meal is one way to handle it. Suing the offending chain is another. California resident Heather Starks took the latter route when she ordered a sandwich from Jimmy John’s whose description said it contained sprouts, only to find no sprouts. Her complaint was that “she purchased sandwiches advertised in online and in-store menus, among other places, as including sprouts, which did not in fact include sprouts,” according to WKTR News. Her use of the word “sandwiches” did make it seem like this sprouts omission happened to her more than once. Whatever the case, though, Jimmy John’s settled the matter by issuing vouchers for a free side item to anyone who claimed they, too, received a sprouts-less sandwich.

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close up of exterior subway logo on a building facade
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Subway’s “Five Dollar Footlong” jingle is definitely one of the better-known advertising campaigns of the 21st century. But when one person debunked it, angry customers came calling. The Australian teen who posed with a tape measure and a Subway sandwich that appeared to fall a full inch shy of its 12-inch mark probably had no intention of starting a three-plus-year lawsuit, but that’s what happened. A few different lawsuits were consolidated into one and the proceedings dragged on for years until early 2016, when Subway agreed to award $500, plus attorney fees, to each of the ten plaintiffs. And it didn’t even end there; an attorney challenged the settlement because he argued that the only ones benefiting were the lawyers, not the consumers.

Keep laughing with the most hilarious court cases ever!

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Vista, CA / USA - June 11, 2018: Close up of a red Jack in the Box building with signage against bright blue sky
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The butt of a joke

It’s not only disgruntled consumers who sue fast-food chains. In 2007, Carl’s Jr. (or, more accurately, their parent company, CKE Restaurants) sued their competitor Jack-in-the-Box after the latter targeted the former in an ad campaign. The very mature campaign focused on the similarity of the word “Angus,” the grade of beef that chains like Carl’s Jr. advertised using in their burgers, to “anus,” implying that their burger meat came from cow butts. The commercials never specifically referenced Carl’s Jr. but instead referred to “our competitors.” Carl’s Jr. worried that their consumers would take the campaign seriously and that they would lose business. That takes being “butt-hurt” to a whole new level! The case reached a settlement, and CKE’s request for the commercials to be taken off the air was denied.

Next, check out more outrageous news stories from around the globe!

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Originally Published on Reader's Digest