A man in New York was not happy when the Mexican Pizza he purchased from Taco Bell didn’t look like the photos in advertisements, so he’s suing.
Is a lack of beef and beans reason enough to file a lawsuit? And if it is, what potential consequences does Taco Bell face?
What’s the Basis of the Lawsuit?
Frank Siragusa, a resident of Queens in New York state, was tired of ordering food from Taco Bell that never seemed to match up to the photos of the food he saw in advertisements.
He finally had enough of the disappointment when he ordered a Mexican Pizza at a Taco Bell in Ridgewood, New York, on September 20, 2022. After Siragusa purchased a Mexican Pizza for $5.49 that failed to deliver on the promise he felt Taco Bell made in its advertising, he decided to sue, according to USA Today.
Siragusa filed suit in federal court against Taco Bell, a California-based company.
The lawsuit says that the Mexican Pizza does not include as much beef and bean filling as is shown in advertising materials. It also references other Taco Bell menu items that Siragusa says do not match up with ad photos. The lawsuit includes side-by-side photos of ads and actual photos for the Crunchwrap Supreme, Vegan Crunchwrap, Grande Crunchwrap, Mexican Pizza, and Veggie Mexican Pizza, according to Insider.
But is customer dissatisfaction a crime?
What’s the Crime?
False advertising is a crime. Federal false advertising laws exist to protect customers and give them the right to seek damages if they have been misled into purchasing or paying more for a company’s goods or services.
Federal Trade Commission Act Section 5 prohibits ‘‘unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce.’’ It says an “act or practice is deceptive where a representation, omission, or practice misleads or is likely to mislead the consumer.”
Siragusa’s lawsuit alleges that Taco Bell uses false advertising to unfairly attract customers and drive them away from Taco Bell’s competitors. The lawsuit says, “Taco Bell advertises larger portions of food to steer consumers to their restaurants for their meals and away from competitors that more fairly advertise the size of their menu items, unfairly diverting millions of dollars in sales that would have gone to competitors.”
The lawsuit also states that Siragusa was frustrated with the perceived false advertising in a time when inflation and food costs are impacting customers. “If Plaintiff knew that the Mexican Pizza contained half of the amount of beef and bean filling as advertised, he would not have purchased the Mexican Pizza and/or he would not have paid the $5.49 price that he paid for the Mexican Pizza,” his attorney wrote in the lawsuit.
If Siragusa’s allegations are true, what possible consequences does Taco Bell face?
What’s the Potential Consequence of the Lawsuit?
Siragusa and his legal team are seeking class-action status for the lawsuit.
They are asking for at least $5 million that would be distributed to New York customers who have eaten any of the five items listed in the lawsuit at Taco Bell within the last three years.
If Siragusa and his team were to win or settle the potential class-action lawsuit, it is unlikely that each plaintiff would be awarded a significant amount of money. Each plaintiff would likely take home a small portion of the award.
Are Food False Advertising Lawsuits Common?
Lawsuits over food advertising go as far back as the early ‘90s and have been popular in the past few years. In 2022, our blog covered the story of a lawsuit against Kraft Heinz Company over a package of instant Velveeta Shells & Cheese.
The attorney in that case, Spencer Sheehan, has filed more than 400 lawsuits related to mislabeling and misrepresenting food products.
Of the 400 cases, some of Sheehan’s cases have been dismissed by judges, while others have been voluntarily dismissed. In a voluntarily dismissed case, the two parties often come to an out-of-court settlement, and the defendant often pays the plaintiff to end the lawsuit.
We’ll have to wait and see how the case against Taco Bell ends.
If it ends like the case against Kraft, it may not get very far. According to TODAY, a judge threw out the $5 million lawsuit against the macaroni and cheese company, saying that the defendant “suffered no injury.”
The attorney in the Kraft case may soon be slowing down his actions against food companies. According to reporting by Reuters, Sheehan has been threatened with sanctions twice by federal judges and warned multiple times against filing unserious lawsuits.
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