Subway 11-inch sandwiches settlement only benefited lawyers, judge rules

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By Katie King on

Case reached court thanks to ‘minor social media sensation’

A judge has ruled that a settlement reached between Subway and angry customers regarding some of its footlongs measuring 11 inches was “no better than a racket” and totally worthless to sandwich lovers. “Zero plus zero equals zero,” concluded Judge Diane Sykes.

Sykes — who reportedly has a fan in Donald Trump, and could well be his next Supreme Court pick — heard the case alongside two fellow judges in the United States Court of Appeals.

The case reached these dizzy judicial heights thanks to “minor social media sensation” Matt Corby. As Sykes explained:

In January 2013 Matt Corby, an Australian teenager, purchased a Subway footlong sandwich and, for reasons unknown, decided to measure it. The sandwich was only 11 inches long. He took a photo of the sandwich next to a tape measure and posted the photo on his Facebook page.

Sandwich measuring became a “fleeting social media meme”, which eventually resulted in a class action lawsuit against the food chain.

A screenshot of Matt Corby’s viral Facebook post

“Proof of injury was nigh impossible,” the 59-year-old judge explained, “because no customer whose sandwich roll actually failed to measure up received any less food because of the shortfall.” This is because Subway’s unbaked bread sticks are uniform, and the minor and unpreventable variations that do occur are because of the baking process.

Eventually, Subway agreed to a number of conditions to ensure that its rolls are at least a foot in length. These included using “tools” to measure sandwiches and inspecting bread ovens.

Done and dusted? Enter Ted Frank, an attorney who founded the Center for Class Action Fairness. He objected to these conditions, arguing that they didn’t benefit the class in any meaningful way and were therefore worthless. The lower courts disagreed and approved the settlement, to which Frank appealed.

And, perhaps surprisingly, Sykes and her colleagues agreed. She said:

The injunctive relief approved by the district judge is utterly worthless… Here, the procedures required by the settlement do not benefit the class in any meaningful way. The settlement acknowledges as much when it says that uniformity in bread length is impossible due to the natural variability of the bread-baking process. Contempt as a remedy to enforce a worthless settlement is itself worthless. Zero plus zero equals zero.

But it wasn’t zero for the suing attorneys, who collected $520,000 (£404,000) in fees for the case. This Subway legal battle only really benefited them, Sykes concluded. But at least we can sleep sound tonight knowing this vital nugget of information:

No class member, regardless of bread length, was cheated on the amount of ham or turkey, provolone or pepper jack.

Read the judgment in full below:

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