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Slow mac attack: Florida woman’s $5-million food fight | Marcel Strigberger

Friday, December 09, 2022 @ 2:32 PM | By Marcel Strigberger


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Marcel Strigberger %>
Marcel Strigberger
Your pasta is too slow. That will be $5 million, please.

Florida resident Amanda Ramirez is suing the Kraft Heinz Co. for at least $5 million over what she claims is deceptive and fraudulent packaging. Ramirez says that because Kraft’s Velveeta Shells & Cheese Microwavable Shell Pasta takes longer than 3.5 minutes to prepare even though its packing states “ready in 3½ minutes,” that constitutes fraud.

She notes that while it might indeed take about 3.5 minutes to cook once in the microwave, the package directions include removing the product lid, adding water, stirring etc., and ergo the total preparation takes longer than five minutes.

This case could very well see a courtroom one day. If so I suppose the plaintiff will likely retain an expert on pasta preparation. After all in litigation there are forensic experts for everything. I readily envisage the plaintiff flying in some professor from the University of Bologna, to testify. Professore Giovani Moretti’s credentials would be impressive, listing a PhD in pasta behaviour; subspecialty linguini. He would say he personally ran tests and concluded there is no way pasta and cheese can be prepared in less than five minutes and 43 seconds. Any claim that less than this duration is possible is a crock of bologna.

The defence might counter with their expert of equal stature, a professor from Oxford, one Sir James Padley, who was knighted for his achievements in experimenting with strange and dangerous food dishes, notably poutine. He would remind the court that until Roger Bannister did it in 1954, nobody was able to run a mile in under four minutes. He would testify that he prepared the defendant’s product several times and that his conclusion is that there is no do doubt that humans can do a 3.5-minute Velveeta. It may be challenging but doable.

There is actually some precedent for this type of case. I am thinking about that first-year law school contracts English Court of Appeal case circa 1892 of Carlill v. Carbolic Smoke Ball Company. The defendant advertised its smoke ball claiming using it for two weeks prevented the flu. It offered a 100-pound reward to any users catching influenza. 

The plaintiff tried the ball and guess what? She got the flu. She sued Smoke Ball for the 100 pounds claiming breach of contract.  The defendant claimed it did not really mean what it touted about the smoke ball’s powers. It said all the hype was “mere puffery.” The court disagreed and hammered the defendant for breach of contract. I get the feeling if this Kraft Heinz case goes to court, the defendants won’t push the mere puffery part. They’ll have to come up with another recipe. Supposedly they have 57 of them.

There are also court logistics I can foresee. Given a likely jury trial, the defence will have to ensure that when deliberations start, that the preparation of the lunch delivered to the jury room is not delayed. They won’t want the jury members to grumble, “Hey, we’re starving. What’s taking so long. What are they cooking up?”

Any such delay might agitate a jury, turning them against the defendant. This might result in a motion for a mistrial. I would expect the caterer not to serve pasta and cheese. Maybe send in a few hot dogs.

I also wonder about the lawyer taking on the plaintiff’s case. He or she might think twice about what they wish for. You see lawyers do something similar in billing as Kraft Heinz does with their Velveeta. Kraft Heinz claims it takes 3.5 minutes to prepare the dish whereas it takes longer. Lawyers bill in units of point one of an hour minimum even though a phone call say lasts two minutes. This lawyer could be inviting a class action against lawyers. The case could be opening a Pandora’s box. And this would be far worse and more costly than opening a box of Velveeta.

Marcel Strigberger retired from his Greater Toronto Area litigation practice and continues the more serious business of humorous author and speaker. His book Boomers, Zoomers, and Other Oomers: A Boomer-biased Irreverent Perspective on Aging is now available in paper and e-book versions where books are sold. Visit www.marcelshumour.com. Follow him @MarcelsHumour.

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