I Can't Believe It's A Class Action Lawsuit!

I Can’t Believe It’s A Class Action Lawsuit!

For those unfamiliar with the acronym, SIHTAF stands for “S[omething] I‘ll Have To Apologize For.”

Jan Polanik lives near Worchester, Massachusetts and like a prodigious percentage of his fellow New Englanders, he sometimes gets breakfast at Dunkin’ Donuts. Jan, he gets the bagel. Hey, he likes bagels! You got a problem with that?

So instead of cream cheese, Jan asked for his bagel to be toasted with butter. (I like them that way sometimes too. You got a problem with that?) But what he got was a bagel, toasted, with margarine. So of course he sued on behalf of all people who “ordered a baked product, such as a bagel, with butter, but instead received margarine or butter substitute between June 24, 2012, and June 24, 2016.”

Polanik’s attorney, Thomas Shapiro, said of the complaint:

Candidly, it seems like a really minor thing, and we thought twice or three times about whether to bring a lawsuit or not. … A lot of people prefer butter. … The main point of the lawsuit is to stop the practice of representing one thing and selling a different thing. It’s a minor thing, but at the same time, if somebody goes in and makes a point to order butter for the bagel . . . they don’t want margarine or some other kind of chemical substitute.

Why did the store give margarine rather than butter? I presume it’s a food safety and delivery-of-product issue: to put the spread on the bagel quickly, it has to be kept at room temperature, and butter has to be kept refrigerated lest it spoil and become a risk of bacterial infestation. Margarine, you can keep at room temperature for much longer before the germs start to build their civilization in it.

So this is news because it’s been recently announced that the defendants, three Dunkin’ Donuts franchisees that own about 20 restaurants in the area, have settled. The terms of the settlement will have to be approved by the court because it is a class action suit but that filing hasn’t been made yet. The lawyer for the majority of the franchisees, Michael Marino, has so far declined to state the terms of the settlement, indicating only “The litigant is satisfied with the operational changes made in those stores.”

I’m reminded of the classic law school limerick:

There once was a lawyer named Rex,
Whose “thing” was too small to have sex.
Charged with indecent exposure,
He made this disclosure:
De minimis non curat lex.”

You got a problem with that?