Heather and the Alfalfa Sprouts

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The Human Race & Other Sports

Heather and the Alfalfa Sprouts

(Photo: Thesupermat/cc)

“If the law supposes that,” said Mr. Bumble. . . “the law is a ass, a idiot.”
— Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist

As a reward for those who read my musings faithfully, I am always pleased when I can give them information that may prove to be of financial benefit to them. This week’s offering falls into that category. It will benefit those who (a) do not read legal notices in their local newspapers carefully or (b) those who live in areas where the legal notice I describe, did not appear. It pertains to the class action settlement that has been entered into by a company known as Jimmy John’s LLC and Heather Starks. Heather was the plaintiff in the lawsuit that has now been settled who, with the of help lawyers, vindicated the rights of all those, who like her, were outrageously treated by a Jimmy John’s in Los Angeles.

Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches is a store that sells gourmet sandwiches of all sorts. A review of its menus online discloses that it has such tempting offerings as “The J.J. Gargantuan® that was invented by Jimmy John’s brother Huey and is huge enough to feed the hungriest of all humans. Tons of Genoa salami, sliced smoked ham. . . .” In addition to the huge sandwich it also has an array of 8” subsandwiches” and “Plain Slims.” Summoning pictures of the sandwiches on the computer screen discloses an array of mouthwatering sandwiches that cannot fail but appeal not only to the hungry but to the viewer who anticipates being hungry at some undefined time in the future. Sad to say, one of the descriptions of its vegetarian sandwich had what turned out to be a costly error. The description said that the vegetarian sandwich it was offering customers included, among other vegetarian delicacies, alfalfa sprouts.

On a fateful day in February 2012, Heather Starks entered a Jimmy John’s looking for a vegetarian sandwich that included alfalfa sprouts. To her delight, she saw such a sandwich on the menu and proceeded to order it. Then a bad thing happened. Heather was given the vegetarian sandwich and to her surprise and dismay THERE WERE NO ALFALFA SPROUTS in the sandwich. Only someone who likes alfalfa sprouts and has ordered a vegetarian sandwich because that sandwich contained alfalfa sprouts can imagine her distress. I do not know if she ate the sandwich notwithstanding her distress or simply refused to accept it and left the store. There is one thing we do know, thanks to the legal notice in the newspaper. She went to see the law firm of Shenkman and Hughes in Malibu, California.

When Heather met the lawyers, she described the terrible thing that had happened to her at Jimmy John’s. It is not clear whether the lawyers were vegetarians but they related to Heather’s distress. Just as Jimmy John’s was creative in creating sandwiches, the lawyers she consulted were creative in deciding how best to help Heather. They concluded that if Heather’s sandwich did not include alfalfa sprouts, there were probably hundreds, if not thousands, of other customers who had ordered vegetarian sandwiches expecting to find alfalfa sprouts who had been disappointed by their absence. As soon as the lawyers came to that conclusion they did what any good lawyer would do. They filed a class action suit on behalf of everyone who had ordered a vegetarian sandwich at Jimmy John’s and not received alfalfa sprouts. According to a description of the suit and its settlement in the “National Law Journal," they alleged that Jimmy John’s had engaged in intentional and negligent misrepresentation, interference with contract, fraud and, in addition, had violated certain California statutes. Because the lawyers were good lawyers, the suit has now been settled on terms very favorable to Heather and the lawyers who represented her, as well as all the disappointed alfalfa sprouts customers.

According to the report in the National Law Journal, the lawyers will be paid $385,000 for fees and expenses. Heather, whose righteous sense of indignation is what brought this egregious omission to the world’s attention, will receive $5000. None of that is the best part of the settlement, however. Since this was a class action, anyone who submits a claim to the court showing that he or she ordered a sandwich “listed on the menu as containing alfalfa sprouts at a Jimmy John’s between February 1, 2012 and July 21, 2014” will share in the settlement. If the claim is approved the person making the claim will “receive a voucher good for the purchase of a side order (pickle, chips, or cookie) or soda.” Readers wanting more details about the settlement and the notice they need to file can go here.

Although I am sure that Jimmy John’s was represented by excellent lawyers I would, nonetheless, offer Jimmy Johns one piece of free legal advice that will help it avoid future lawsuits like the one involving the sprouts. It should change the description of the Gargantuan® so that it refers to “lots of salami” rather than “tons of salami.” Without such a change, Jimmy Johns may find itself back in court defending a claim by another dissatisfied customer.

Christopher Brauchli

Christopher Brauchli is a columnist and lawyer known nationally for his work. He is a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Colorado School of Law where he served on the Board of Editors of the Rocky Mountain Law Review. He can be emailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu. For political commentary see his web page at http://humanraceandothersports.com

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