South Floridians Cynthia E. Kissner and Leonard Werner had hoped to bring a $5 million class action lawsuit against Delaware-based McDonald’s Corp. over its ”unfair” and “deceptive” cheese surcharge on Quarter Pounder and Double Quarter Pounder burgers.
But the court didn’t bite.
The case lacked a solid basis, according to U.S. District Judge William P. Dimitrouleas in the Southern District of Florida, who dismissed the claims with prejudice.
The couple’s “unwanted cheese vexation,” as Dimitrouleas called it, reached sizzling heights in May, prompting a putative class action lawsuit alleging unjust enrichment and a violation of antitrust laws.
According to the complaint, charging between 30 and 90 cents extra for cheese was “unfair” to diners, who weren’t given the option of buying burgers without it.
The lawsuit claimed all McDonald’s restaurants used to allow customers to pay less for a cheese-free Quarter Pounder, but then some franchises scrapped that measure to become a few million dollars richer. It claimed this was an illegal “tying arrangement,” a tactic used to force customers into buying one product tied to another.
But Dimitrouleas disagreed.
“Plaintiffs’ attempt to fit a hamburger with cheese into these required elements is absurd and fails,” the court order said.
Kissner and Werner had sought damages plus attorney fees and court costs, while McDonald’s moved to dismiss the suit, claiming the plaintiffs lacked standing as they’d suffered no injuries.
Dimitrouleas also agreed with McDonald’s on its claim that there was nothing deceptive about its Quarter Pounder sales. He branded the plaintiffs’ unjust enrichment allegations “nonsensical.”
The court provided additional food for thought, noting that even if the plaintiffs had made a strong unjust enrichment claim, the case would have been barred under Florida’s voluntary payment doctrine, which states that if customers knowingly paid extra, they have no grounds for a lawsuit.
McDonald’s laywer, Craig D. Mills of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney in Philadelphia, declined to comment on the case.
Kissner and Werner’s attorney, Andrew T. Lavin of the Lavin Law Group in Miami, did not respond to requests for comment before deadline.
Read the full court order: