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Shocking food lawsuits

Bob Odenkirk (Saul Goodman) in a scene from the final season of "Breaking Bad."AP Photo

AMC has greenlit a spinoff series for Breaking Bad’s breakout supporting character Saul Goodman—and happier we could not be. So we’re hoping that Vince Gilligan and Bob Odenkirk don’t mind if we suggest a few juicy frivolous food lawsuits—all 100% real court cases (but don’t sue us over that claim)—that our favorite shady shyster could sink his teeth into.

The Case of the Phantom TV Chef

If Julie & Julia taught us anything, it’s that television chefs never die, they simply become marketable brands. So you couldn’t really be shocked when the Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts, which is also in the midst of a lawsuit with Thermador Ovens,  recently sued Williams-Sonoma over the retailer’s use of Julia Child’s name in a line of cooking products. The foundation wants Williams-Sonoma to scrub the J.C. name and image from all its marketing and social-media, and stop using her name in promotional contests.

Status: Still pending

At Stake: The foundation says the real issue at stake is Julia Child’s legacy, especially considering the chef’s well-known stance against endorsing products, but it’s still in the midst of calculating how much money to ask for.

Memorable Quote: Foundation spokesman Todd Schulkin: ”Given the value of today’s food celebrities, the value will be in the millions of dollars.”

The Case of the Eleven-Inch Footlong

At the beginning of this year, Subway came under fire when photos went viral of a customer rolling out a tape measure next to his supposedly foot-long Subway sandwich, and proving that his meal literally came up short. Lawsuits inevitably followed, with one lawyer estimating that the company essentially cheats its patrons of $142.5 million worth of food every year. Subway responded by pledging to tighten its standards and ensure that a foot equates to 12 inches in each of its more than 38,000 restaurants worldwide.

Status: At the Subway’s request, the case was moved to the federal court system in May.

At Stake: On Subway’s side, potentially hundreds of millions of dollars, and as-yet-uncalculated costs of instituting a new hoagie-measuring system. On the plaintiffs’ side, bigger sandwiches and, presumably, waistlines.

Memorable Quote: Plaintiff Jason Leslie: “They advertise in all these commercials, ‘Footlong, Footlong, Footlong,’ and now I feel like an idiot. I can’t believe I fell for that trick. The sandwiches are anywhere between a half-inch to an inch shorter…I feel cheated.”

The Case of the Anus Burger

In 2007, Carl’s Jr. got all anal when rival Jack in the Box rammed a stick up its butt in two TV ads that implied that Carl’s Jr.’s much-touted Angus burgers were actually made from cow anus. In one, the Jack in the Box Pinocchio-like mascot refuses to point out where Angus meat comes from on a diagram of a cow. Instead, an actor makes a circular motion and says the word “Angus” in a suggestive way. A California judge denied Carl’s Jr.’s request for an injunction against the commercials.

Status: Case dismissed

At Stake: Well, just trying saying “Angus burger” now without thinking of that other thing.

Memorable Quote: “Could you point to the … Angus … area?”

The Case of the Stolen Boobies

In 2003, Hooters filed a $4 million lawsuit against Ker’s WingHouse Bar and Grill, claiming that the smaller Florida company had infringed on Hooters’ trademark by dressing its waitresses in sexually provocative outfits. The court, noting that Hooters can’t claim a monopoly on attractive women, short shorts and tank tops, found in favor of Ker’s.

Status: Defendant victory. The judge also ordered Hooters to pay Ker’s $1.2 million on the counterclaim.

At Stake: Our right to purchase low-quality buffalo wings from waitress in halter tops and tiny bottoms in colors other than orange and white.

Memorable Quote: U.S. District Judge Anne C. Conway: “Hooters has admitted that the Hooters Girl’s predominant function is to provide vicarious sexual recreation, to titillate, entice, and arouse male customers’ fantasies. She is the very essence of Hooters’ business.”

See more foodie lawsuits at Bon Appétit. 

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