A federal judge recently dismissed a consumer class action lawsuit that had been filed against McDonald’s in Chicago over the fast food franchise’s so-called “Extra Value Meal.”
Customers who want a variety of offerings from the McDonald’s menu have the option of either ordering them individually or ordering them together in a pre-packaged and pre-priced “Extra Value Meal.” The labeling of these combo meals implies that buying them together would provide a better value for the customer, but according to the recent class action lawsuit, that is a deceptive implication.
Kelly Killeen, the named plaintiff who filed the lawsuit, alleges she recently bought a sausage burrito breakfast Extra Value Meal at a McDonald’s location in Chicago for $5.08. The meal consisted of two sausage burritos, hash browns, and coffee, all of which Killeen alleges would have cost her $4.97 if she had ordered them individually, rather than as an “Extra Value Meal.”
Judge Elaine Bucklo dismissed the lawsuit, saying that because all the prices for each item, as well as each “value meal” were clearly labeled and available to the public, the fast-food chain could not be held liable if consumers did not take the time to compare prices themselves.
But such a decision arguably fails to take into account the fact that the labeling McDonald’s used counted on consumers being too busy to stop and compare prices. Whether it involves the mental energy of adding up the prices of the individual items or actually taking out a calculator to make sure the results are accurate, it’s an extra few minutes that most people simply don’t have as they’re running errands and rushing from home to work to appointments and back. Just because the fast food giant made the evidence of their mislabeling available does not mean that their “extra value meals” were not mislabeled.
If Judge Bucklo pointed out specific strengths and weaknesses in the complaint filed by the class of plaintiffs, then they may have a chance to amend their complaint and refile before the judge dismisses the case for good. Otherwise, the class of plaintiffs may have the option of appealing Judge Bucklo’s decision to a higher federal court. If the higher federal court agrees with Judge Bucklo, or refuses to hear the case, then the dismissal of the case will stand and McDonald’s will be unlikely to change its pricing structure.
If, on the other hand, the appellate court disagrees with Judge Bucklo’s reasoning, the panel would be able to send the case back to the lower court to be tried again.
There is a third possibility: if the class of plaintiffs does decide to appeal Judge Bucklo’s decision, and the court agrees to hear the case, then McDonald’s and the class of plaintiffs may decide to settle the case outside of court. Such a settlement agreement may or may not include a provision in which McDonald’s would agree to change its pricing structure, but it would mean a payment for the class and it would mean that everyone involved would be able to put the dispute behind them and move on with their lives.
Our Chicago, Illinois consumer rights private law firm handles individual and class action gift card, data breach, privacy rights, deceptive advertising, predatory lending, unfair debt collection, lemon law, and other consumer fraud cases that government agencies and public interest law firms such as the Illinois Attorney General may not pursue. Class action lawsuits our law firm has been involved in or spear-headed have led to substantial awards totaling over a million dollars to organizations including the National Association of Consumer Advocates, the National Consumer Law Center, and local law school consumer programs. The Chicago consumer lawyers at Lubin Austermuehle are proud of our achievements in assisting national and local consumer rights organizations to obtain the funds needed to ensure that consumers are protected and informed of their rights. By standing up to consumer fraud and consumer rip-offs, and in the right case filing consumer protection lawsuits and class-actions you too can help ensure that other consumers’ rights are protected from consumer rip-offs and unscrupulous or dishonest practices.
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