The court refused Subway’s request to dismiss the lawsuit, saying that the complaint’s central facts have yet to be resolved.
A federal judge will allow a lawsuit against Subway to make its forward in court, dismissing the restaurant chain’s request to dismiss the complaint alleging that its tuna sandwiches are “partially or wholly” lacking in actual tuna.
According to National Public Radio, the lawsuit was first filed by Alameda County, CA, resident Nilima Amin.
In her complaint, Amin claimed that Subway’s marketing suggests that its tuna sandwiches contain “tuna” and “100% tuna.”
However, Amin cited findings from a marine biologist, who analyzed 20 separate Subway tuna samples. In all but one of the samples, the biologist found “no detectable tuna DNA sequences whatsoever.”
Amin alleges that, while Subway’s tuna-flavored meat is often devoid of fish, it contains other animal products, including chicken and pork.
In its motion to dismiss the lawsuit, Subway told U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar that its tuna sandwiches regularly include other ingredients, including egg-based products like mayonnaise.
Subway said that any “reasonable consumer” watching a “sandwich artist” prepare a meal would expect some level of product cross-contamination.
Nevertheless, Tigar said that Amin’s lawsuit should be allowed to proceed, as the facts of the case remain ambiguous and unresolved. Tigar further opined that Amin’s accusations involve “ingredients that a reasonable consumer would not reasonably expect to find in a tuna product.”
Amin, adds N.P.R., is seeking a jury trial and class action certification for her lawsuit, which alleges that Subway committed fraud, false advertising, and violated fair competition statutes.
The lawsuit seeks restitution, punitive damages, and “disgorgement of ill-gotten gains” from Subway, which is among the most profitable fast food companies in the United States.
In a statement to N.P.R., Subway said it was “disappointed” that Tigar was unwilling to dismiss the lawsuit.
“We are disappointed that the Court felt it couldn’t dismiss the plaintiffs’ reckless and improper lawsuit at this stage,” Subway said.
Subway had previously responded to allegations that its tuna sandwiches do not contain real tuna by claiming that it uses “wild-caught skipjack tuna regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.”
Subway said that the marine biologist’s claims, covered by the New York Times, are patently false; the company asserts that the biologist employed a special type of DNA testing that cannot reliably determine whether a food product contains tuna, especially if the product has already been cooked or otherwise processed.
Despite Tigar’s decision, N.P.R. notes that Judge Tigar did dismiss part of the complaint, dismissing claims by one of Amin’s co-plaintiffs, who was unable to confirm whether she had actually paid for a Subway tuna sandwich.
Tigar also dismissed part of the lawsuit that he described as stating that “a tuna salad, sandwich, or wrap contains 100% tuna and nothing else.”
Tigar gave Amin three weeks to respond to the latter portion of the ruling.