What to Do When Your Company Gets 'Subway-ed' by a Frivolous Suit

By William Peacock, Esq. on January 28, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

When you're great - haters gonna hate. It's a fact of life. Dominate global fast food sales and a documentary gets made about the effect of gluttony and fries. Become one of the word's largest fast food chains, and people will measure the length of your baguette?

Apparently so. Some guy in Australia measured his "footlong" and it came up short. (That's what she said.) He shared the shortcoming with the Internet. A strange response ensued - instead of inspiring the obvious dirty jokes, others measured their buns and Subway got sued.

Sued? Over an inch of bread?

The bigger you are, the deeper your pockets, the more ridiculous the lawsuits. Here are a few ways that Subway -- or a company in a similar situation -- could handle this type of suit:

Make it go away quietly

If you want them to shut up about that last inch, give 'em what they want. Of course, this seems to be the strategy that Subway is taking. They issued a statement that promised to "ensure consistency and correct length in every sandwich," reports the Chicago Tribune.

Still, re-measuring your dough is only going to go so far. Perhaps a "mea culpa" promotion could stem the tide of frivolous lawsuits that began on the East Coast and continued with a Chicago plaintiff. The bad PR has already hit - bribe the customer and move on.

Ask Jared

Look, we're all pretty much thinking the same thing right now: this is ridiculous. You know what could make it even more ridiculous, and possibly spin the story in the company's favor? Mock the entire uproar.

Subway used to have Jared commercials, right? Have Jared film a spot about pre-baked length versus the end product and how it's all a freaking estimate. He could even "beat" the lawyers with a stale footlong (or 11-inch) baguette!

Sure, you could continue to issue meek statements about ensuring consistency. Or, you could make the customers laugh by mocking your detractors. The customers will giggle, enjoy the pseudo "mea culpa" promotion, and you've spun a PR nightmare into more sales.

It'll probably reduce the plaintiffs' incentive to dismiss their suits or settle, but how much are a couple of class-action cold cut combos really worth? Besides, will they even survive summary judgment?

Speaking of summary judgment

Get rid of the suit as quickly as possible. If beating the plaintiffs with stale bread isn't an option, summary judgment probably will be. We all know that a quarter-pounder is precooked weight. We all know that baking bread is going to result in baguettes of varying-lengths. The best a restaurateur can do is to estimate.

Right now, the claim essentially alleges, "Some sandwiches are shorter than others. We were promised 12 inches in advertisements. Give us MOAR SAMMICH AND MONEYZ!" Is that even enough to make it to the discovery phase? Probably not.

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