Thursday, August 30, 2007

Judges Dismisses Key Parts of Gluten-free Lawsuit against McDonald's French Fries

On May 30th, federal judge Elaine E. Bucklo dismissed key parts of a lawsuit against McDonald’s regarding the gluten-free status of their famous French fries.

The case, In Re McDonald's French Fries Litigation (MDL-1784), was brought in February 2006, by two Florida plaintiffs on behalf of their autistic daughter who allegedly suffered ill effects from eating McDonald’s French fries. At the time, the company claimed that the French fries were gluten-free.

The lawsuit claimed in part that McDonalds' “failure to disclose the fact that their French fries contained gluten constitutes deceptive, unfair, unconscionable, misleading and fraudulent trade practices,” and that “McDonald’s unfairly and unjustly profited from their conduct." The judge dismissed claims of fraud, breach of implied warranty, and a request for injunctive relief, but left intact two counts, breach of express warranty and unjust enrichment.

In its arguments for dismissal, McDonald's claimed that most of the plaintiffs' legal causes of action were barred as a matter of law. Basically, McDonald's asserted that the plaintiffs pled themselves out of court by arguing facts that undermined their own claim.

The plaintiffs' fraud allegations were rejected because they failed to meet the specificity required under the federal rules. McDonald's argued that the plaintiffs’ claim of fraud and misrepresentation failed to state how, when, or where the alleged misrepresentations took place. Federal Rule 9(b) of Civil Procedure requires that all claims of fraud be stated with particularity; otherwise, they face dismissal.

Judge Bucklo rejected the plaintiffs' claim for injunctive relief because she found there was no threat of future wrongful conduct. The company revised its web site in 2006 to show that its fries and hash browns contain gluten. Also, the publicity brought by the suit arguably eliminated any need for injunctive relief.

The plaintiffs have 28 days to amend their complaint or the lawsuit will go forward based on the two remaining counts.

About the Author: Jefferson Adams is a freelance health writer who lives in San Francisco and is a frequent author of articles for 06/08/2007

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