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Verdicts & Settlements

Judge Dismisses Subway “Mystery Tuna” Lawsuit

— October 13, 2021

The plaintiffs will still be allowed to re-file their lawsuit, provided it lives up to legal standards.

A federal judge has dismissed an unusual lawsuit against Subway Restaurants Inc., in which the fast-food chain was accused of misrepresenting the quality and origins of its tuna.

According to Bloomberg Law, the lawsuit suggested that Subway knew or should have known that its tuna sandwiches “do not contain 100% skipjack and yellowtail tuna, and/or do not consist of 100% tuna with respect to the fish portion of the product Defendants represent as tuna.”

In their complaint, lead plaintiffs Karen Dhanowa and Nilima Amin had hoped to represent other consumers upset that Subway used “misleading representations” to “capitalize on the premium price consumers are willing to pay” for tuna.

The lawsuit claimed that “independent testing repeatedly affirmed” that Subway’s tuna products are not made with actual tuna, but are instead created with cheaper ingredients.

“The products are made from a mixture of various concoctions,” the suit states.

However, they did not identify which individuals or agencies were responsible for carrying out the supposed tests.

Subway, though, sought to dismiss the lawsuit on several grounds—including that the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that anyone bought tuna sandwiches based on any misrepresentation or bad-faith marketing strategy.

A partially eaten Subway tuna sandwich. Image via Flickr/user:Bill Keaggy. (CCA-BY-2.0). (Source link:

While U.S. District Jon S. Tigar of the Northern District of California dismissed the lawsuit, he did agree to let Dhanowa and Amin re-file—provided that their revised complaint meets legal criteria and demonstrates that Subway’s alleged wrongdoing resulted in tangible harm.

“To meet the heightened pleading standard, plaintiffs still need to describe the specific statements they saw and relied upon, when they saw the statements, and where the statements appeared. Because they fail to do so, the complaint does not satisfy the […] standard,” Tigar said.

Bloomberg Law observes that their attorney, Patrick McNicholas, “appeared to consent to the adverse ruling,” saying he could re-file the complaint to bring it up to pleading standards.

Subway has since praised the ruling.

“We commend the court for dismissing the reckless and improper lawsuit surrounding Subway’s tuna,” a company spokesperson said in a press release.

The claim that Subway’s tuna sandwiches do not contain real tuna, and the subsequent lawsuit, garnered national attention—especially after the testers said they could not determine what, exactly, is inside the restaurant’s fish product.

However, Subway was quick to defend itself, slamming the claims as “meritless.”

“Tuna is one of our most popular sandwiches,” Subway told Insider earlier this summer. “Our restaurants receive 100% wild-caught tuna, mix it with mayonnaise and serve [it] on a freshly made sandwich to our guests.”


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