Federal Court Victory By Amy Gibson and Nate Lichtenstein Featured in Law360
Aronberg Goldgehn attorneys Amy Gibson and Nate Lichtenstein victory for a McDonald’s franchisee is featured in an April 9, 2018, write-up by Law360 titled, “McDonald's Escapes Deceptive Value Meal Marketing Suit.”
Written by Rachel Graf, the article states that an Illinois federal judge dismissed on Friday, April 6, 2018, a proposed class action accusing McDonald’s Corp. of misrepresenting that purchasing bundled “value meals” would cost less than buying each of the meal items separately, saying the restaurant chain didn’t hide any of the prices.
U.S. District Judge Elaine E. Bucklo said McDonald’s has not deceived consumers under Illinois law because the fast food chain prominently displays the prices of all its menu items. Kelly Killeen, who brought the suit, could have calculated that the price of purchasing the items individually would have been less than the price of a bundled “value meal,” she said.
“Understandably, plaintiff may not have wished to take the time to compare prices, but there is no question that doing so would have dispelled the deception on which her claims are based,” Judge Bucklo said.
Killeen paid $5.08 for a Sausage Burrito Extra Value Meal at a McDonald’s owned by franchisee and named defendant Salabad LLC, according to a complaint filed in state court in December 2016. She would have paid only $4.97 if she had purchased the two burritos, hash brown and medium coffee separately, the suit said. The suit was removed to federal court in February 2017.
Salabad was represented by Nate and Amy. McDonald’s was represented by attorneys from Freeborn & Peters LLP.
Killeen claimed the advertisements about the value meals suggest they will cost less than purchasing each item individually, and the statements, therefore, are false. She alleged violations of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
Judge Bucklo said Friday that although Killeen’s argument has “superficial appeal,” McDonald’s conduct does not violate Illinois law. When consumers have access to information that would eliminate confusion caused by allegedly misleading marketing, there is “no possibility for deception” under state law, she said.
Killeen doesn’t claim that menu prices were unavailable to her, Judge Bucklo noted. Fast food chains typically display prices prominently above the cash registers, and Killeen could have used this information to compare the prices of the individual items and the value meal, the judge said.
“This is not a case in which consumers would have to consult an ingredients list or other fine print to determine whether prominent images or labels a defendant uses in connection with its product accurately reflect the product’s true nature or quality,” Judge Bucklo said.
The case is Kelly Killeen v. McDonald’s Corporation et al., case number 1:17-cv-00874, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.