ChicagoTribune.com 01-24-2013 (Subway Footlong)

ChicagoTribune.com 01-24-2013 (Subway Footlong)

Subway footlong lawsuits filed in Chicago, New Jersey
Suits allege sandwich chain is shorting customers on length of their footlong subs

By Rob Manker, Chicago Tribune reporter
9:53 a.m. CST, January 24, 2013

Complaints that Subway’s “footlong” sandwiches don’t quite measure up have now stretched all the way from Australia, across the Internet and into courts in New Jersey and Chicago.

A picture of an Australian teen measuring his “footlong” Subway sandwich to be only 11 inches went viral last week, sparking a wave of similar online posts by other Subway eaters around the world claiming their sandwiches also came up short of a foot. This week, lawsuits were filed by separate plaintiffs here and on the East Coast, each seeking damages over a missing inch or more.

The Chicago lawsuit was filed by Nguyen Buren, who alleges that he visited a Subway location near his North Side home on Sunday but didn’t get the final fraction of his sub. Buren’s suit, filed against Subway parent Doctor’s Associates Inc., claims his sandwich was less than 11 inches long and alleges a “pattern of fraudulent, deceptive and otherwise improper advertising, sales and marketing practices.”

“This is no different than if you bought a dozen eggs and they gave you 11 or you bought a dozen doughnnuts and they gave you 11,” said attorney Tom Zimmerman, who is representing Buren. “Here, you bought a dozen inches of sandwich and you got less than 11. It’s no different, and yet you’re paying for 12.”

Buren’s lawsuit was filed Tuesday, the same day two men filed a similar suit in New Jersey state court, and seeks damages in excess of $5 million. Both suits are seeking class-action status. Zimmerman said he expects to talk with the attorneys in the New Jersey case and hopes that suit will be withdrawn and moved to federal court so the suits can be combined.

Subway did not immediately respond to requests for comment, though Subway Australia had previously responded to the original complaint from Down Under. In that situation, the chain said the “Subway Footlong” was a registered trademark used “as a descriptive name for the sub sold in Subway restaurants and not intended to be a measurement of length.”

Subway has faced challenges over the “footlong” name before, including in 2011 by convenience chain Casey’s General Stores. Subway had ordered Casey’s to stop using the “footlong” name to describe its 12-inch sandwiches and even threatened to sue, prompting Casey’s to counter that “footlong” is a generic term that anyone should be allowed to use. Casey’s withdrew its petition before the matter went to court.

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