In case it wasn’t clear before, it’s officially OK for Starbucks to carry on with its current ice-to-product ratio in its cold drinks.
A federal judge has dismissed a proposed class action a disgruntled Starbucks (SBUX) customer filed against the company in May. That lawsuit claimed that “Starbucks’ advertising practices are clearly meant to mislead customers when combined with the standard practice of filling a cold drink cup with far less liquid than the cup can hold.”
Putting it in Starbucks-centric terms, the lawsuit specified that when a Venti Cold Drink cup is filled up to the top black line “they are only pouring about 14 fluid ounces of Cold Drink into the cup, not 24 fluid ounces,” because of the excess amount of ice.
In dismissing the case, Judge Percy Anderson likened the plaintiff to a child: “If children have figured out that including ice in a cold beverage decreases the amount of liquid they will receive, the Court has no difficulty concluding that a reasonable consumer would not be deceived into thinking that when they order an iced tea, that the drink they receive will include both ice and tea and that for a given size cup, some portion of the drink will be ice rather than whatever liquid beverage the consumer ordered.”
THE CASE OF THE HOT COFFEE
There’s no shortage of lawsuits involving beverages, but perhaps the most famous was Liebeck v. McDonald’s, frequently referred to as the “hot coffee” lawsuit. The plaintiff was awarded $2.9 million dollars after she spilled hot McDonald’s (MCD) coffee on her lap (later reduced to $500,000, as The New York Times’ Retro Report has noted). The case subsequently triggered a flurry of responses, with people claiming it was frivolous.
But in fact, hundreds of customers have filed complaints against McDonald’s (MCD) because of the coffee’s scalding hot temperature, as the Consumer Attorneys of California notes.
Beyond coffee, passionate customers have filed lawsuits against a bevy of food and beverage giants, often unsuccessfully.
Richard Overton sued Anheuser-Busch for $10,000 in 1991, claiming the company was falsely advertising its beer and the magical effects it would have on his dating life. Anheuser-Busch (BUD) had a series of ads that depicted men drinking beer and surrounded by throngs of beautiful women. He claimed that these ads caused him emotional distress, mental injury and financial loss. Needless to say, this case was dismissed.
PHONY FINGER FOOD
In 2005, Anna Ayala claimed to bite into a 1 ½ inch “crunchy” finger while chowing on a cup of Wendy’s (WEN) chili. However, lab tests determined there were no traces of saliva on the finger AND that the finger quote “was not consistent with an object that had been cooked in chili at 170 degrees for three hours.” After further investigation, it turned out that Ayala’s husband had bought the finger from a co-worker — who had lost it in an accident — for $100. Wendy’s claimed that Ayala’s claims inflicted more than $2.5 million in lost revenue for the company and ultimately, Ayala was sentenced to nine years in prison, of which she served four.
KFC’S FALSE RUMOR MILL
And sometimes it’s not the fast food companies that are under fire — they’re the targets. Last summer, there were false rumors circulating that KFC was genetically modifying its meat and manufacturing an 8-legged, 6-winged chicken to its customers. KFC’s parent company, Yum Brands (YUM), sued three Chinese companies that were spreading the rumors on social media. Each of the firms have been ordered to pay KFC a combined 600,000 yuan, or a little under $100,000. KFC had originally sought 1.5 million yuan from each company.
What are the strangest lawsuits against fast food franchises you’ve ever heard of? Have you ever filed one yourself? Tweet me at @melodyhahm!
Melody Hahm is a writer & reporter at Yahoo Finance, covering entrepreneurship, innovation and technology. Read more from Melody: