Food has taken over way more than just mealtime. The things we eat used to make headlines for little more than the occasional product recall, but today, celebrity cookbooks abound, viral food videos bombard our news feeds, and food-focused legal disputes pop up in the news almost daily. You won't believe some of the lawsuits that have erupted between hangry consumers and big-name brands over the years. Read up on some of the most insane food suits to date and decide for yourself whether the pleading parties have a case...or they're just nutcases.
1. Starbucks runs into ridiculous coffee conflicts
Earlier this year, the king of java got wrapped up in a $15,000 lawsuit when a customer suffered second-degree burns from a scalding cup of coffee. They can't seem to get it right with the cold stuff, either—more recently, Starbucks was hit with a whopping $5 million suit when a woman claimed the chain puts too much ice in their cold drinks! Her point was that Starbucks cheats customers by misrepresenting the amount of beverage they'll actually receive, and charges more for them, too. Can't wait to see how that caffeine-fueled feud plays out.
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2. Whole Foods gets blamed for homophobia
People order some crazy cakes these days, but when social media exploded with photos of a confection with a homophobic slur piped on top, the people of the internet did a double-take. A customer in Texas accused Whole Foods employees of writing the offensive message, and pressed charges because of the "pain, anguish, and humiliation" he suffered. Soon after, he withdrew his $100,000 lawsuit, admitting that the whole thing was a hoax. How about a pie of humble pie...er, cake?
3. Haribo and Lindt have a real bear of an argument
Turns out there's a real sour side to the candy biz. Haribo has been feuding with Lindt Chocolate since 2012 about the similarities between Lindt's gold-foil Teddys and Haribo's Gold Bears mascot. Hmm...we're pretty sure that no one was confusing the chocolate bears with colorful gummies, and a federal court judge eventually agreed. The ruling stated that Lindt's candy was "neither a violation of Haribo's 'Gold Bear' trademark nor an illegal imitation of the fruit gum products." Sounds like a sweet ending to us!
4. McDonald's gets stingy with the napkins
There's nothing worse than grabbing a quick fast-food meal and realizing that something is missing from your order, but back in 2014 one man freaked out at Mickey D's because they didn't give him enough...napkins? Webster Lucas received just one napkin with his order at his local McDonald's in California, and claimed that when he asked for more he was denied and received a racist comment from the manager. Though the manager offered him free burgers later on, Lucas decided to sue for $1.5 million due to "mental anguish"—something he'd done to other chains including Walmart and Denny's previously. *Eye roll*
5. Dunkin Donuts pays up for a bad spill
On a bad morning, any one of us might cry over spilled coffee, but a New Jersey woman had an epically awful day back in 2012, and it was all Dunkin Donuts' fault. While walking back to her car with a tray of coffees, Maria Marsala tripped over an exposed metal spike in the parking lot, causing her to spill the hot drinks all over her face and neck. She suffered burns and hurt her hand and knee, and the coffee chain was slapped with a personal injury lawsuit, which they settled for $522,000. That's a whole lotta lattés.
6. Chobani gets flack for false advertising
In 2014, two dudes from New York filed a class-action suit, accusing the yogurt brand of deceiving customers with its "Greek yogurt" label. Their argument stated that "there is nothing 'Greek' about the products," and pointed out that "none of the products sold in the U.S. are made in Greece or made by Greek nationals." Hey, guys? Nobody cares. Chobani fired back, assuring them that their fans are smart enough to know that "Greek" refers to the style of yogurt, not its origins.
7. Subway's Foot-longs don't measure up
The "five dollar foot-long" jingle that made Subway's offer so well-known ended up backfiring, thanks to customers' complaints that their sandwiches weren't true to size. Several lawsuits skewered the shops for selling subs measuring just 11 inches, causing customers to lose out on 45 cents per sandwich. Subway settled the issue by requiring restaurants to start measuring the bread to ensure it's precisely 12 and 6 inches long. A judge even approved $520,000 in attorney fees and $500 for each of the individuals involved in the suit!
8. Sriracha stirs up a spicy dispute
Hot sauce fans who add a squirt of spicy rooster sauce to everything couldn't imagine meals without their beloved Sriracha—but a community in Southern California decided that they just couldn't live with it anymore. The city of Irwindale, the location of Sriracha-producer, Huy Fong Foods, sued the company in 2013 due to the pungent chili odor coming from the factory. The suit called the smell a "public nuisance," and residents complained about headaches and irritation to their eyes and throat as well—the California Department of Health even got involved. A judge ruled in the people's favor and shut down the factory temporarily, causing Huy Fong Foods' owner to consider moving the operation elsewhere. The latest news in this spicy scandal is that Irwindale is going after the company for over $400,000 in unpaid contributions to the city. The CEO's response? Good riddance.