A package of instant macaroni and cheese doesn’t seem like something to lead to a lawsuit. But, a cup of noodles is now at the heart of a lawsuit filed by a Florida woman.
What led to the lawsuit, and why has her attorney filed over 400 lawsuits about food?
The Mac and Cheese Lawsuit
Amanda Ramirez claims she purchased a package of instant Velveeta Shells & Cheese. According to the packaging, the product should be ready in 3 ½ minutes. When Ramirez cooked the food, she realized it took longer than the advertised time. After stirring in the water and waiting for the cheese to thicken, it took more than 3 ½ minutes for the food to be ready to eat.
Ramirez decided to sue over the discrepancy.
Ramirez partnered with New York-based attorney Spencer Sheehan to file a class action lawsuit against Kraft Heinz Company (which owns the Velveeta brand) for what it believes is false advertising. The lawsuit alleges that Kraft Heinz misleads customers and drives them to purchase the product at a higher price due to the perceived convenience.
According to the lawsuit, “As a result of the false and misleading representations, the Product is sold at a premium price, approximately no less than $10.99 for eight 2.39 oz cups, excluding tax and sales, higher than similar products, represented in a non-misleading way, and higher than it would be sold for absent the misleading representations and omissions.”
As reported by NPR, the 15-page class action lawsuit seeks over $5 million in damages to cover consumers in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah, New Mexico, Alaska, Iowa, Tennessee, and Virginia.
Related: Dealing With the Media During a High-Profile Case: What to Expect
A Pattern of Food-Related Lawsuits
The mac and cheese lawsuit isn’t the first time Sheehan has filed a lawsuit related to false advertising in food products.
According to NPR, Sheehan has filed more than 400 lawsuits related to mislabeling and misrepresenting food products.
Some of Sheehan’s lawsuits include:
- A lawsuit against Frito-Lay for not using enough real lime juice in its “hint of lime” Tostitos.
- A lawsuit against Snack Pack pudding for saying it is “made with real milk” when it is actually made with fat-free skim milk.
- A lawsuit against Pop Tarts for misrepresenting the amount of fruit in strawberry Pop Tarts.
- Roughly 120 lawsuits against food companies that say their products are “vanilla” while including no actual vanilla bean.
Some of Sheehan’s hundreds of cases have been dismissed by judges, but many others have been voluntarily dismissed.
When a case is voluntarily dismissed, the plaintiff terminates the lawsuit. It is typically a result of the two sides coming to an agreement out of court. In those cases, the defendant often pays the plaintiff to end the lawsuit.
In class action lawsuits with many plaintiffs, each plaintiff doesn’t usually take home a significant amount of money if they win or settle a case. But, Sheehan’s cases could be lucrative for him as the plaintiff’s attorney.
According to Bonnie Patten of Truth In Advertising, “The vast majority of consumers will get absolutely nothing, and a very small percentage will get next to nothing. Generally, the plaintiff’s attorney will be taking home between 25 and 33%.”
Related: What’s the Difference Between a Civil and Criminal Case?
Food Lawsuits Now and Then
Sheehan isn’t the first person to file class action lawsuits related to the false advertising of food products. It has happened recently and decades ago.
Just one month before the mac and cheese lawsuit, Matthew Sinatro and Jessica Prost filed a class action lawsuit against Barilla, a pasta making company. The lawsuit alleges that Barilla engages in false advertising by featuring the slogan “Italy’s #1 Brand of Pasta” on pasta boxes, even though the pasta is not made in Italy. Barilla moved to dismiss the case in August, but the judge denied the request. The case is still currently moving through the legal system.
Lawsuits over misrepresentation in food packaging and advertising go as far back as the early ‘90s.
In 1991, Richard Overton sued Anheuser-Busch for false and misleading advertising. Overton said commercials for Anheuser-Busch beers featured, “scenic tropical settings [and] beautiful women and men engaged in endless and unrestricted merriment.” He said this image turned out to be “untrue.” The beer commercials depicted a fantasy that wasn’t what you got when you consumed the product.
Overton said the misrepresentation caused him emotional distress, mental and physical injury, and over $10,000 in financial losses. The beer case was dismissed.
Related: What to Ask During a Free Consultation with a Lawyer
Get Serious Legal Representation
While some legal cases may seem silly, there is nothing silly about being involved in a legal matter.
If you find yourself facing legal issues, talk to an attorney right away. Find a trusted lawyer who will fight for you to get the best possible outcome, whether you’re facing civil or criminal charges. To get legal advice right away, schedule a call with TJ Grimaldi. All consultations are free. Request your appointment or call 813-226-1023 now.
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