First Starbucks was sued for not putting enough liquid in their cups, and now KFC is being sued over not providing enough fried chicken in its buckets. A New York woman has filed a lawsuit against Kentucky Fried Chicken for false advertisement with regard to just how many pieces were in her bucket.
Anna Wurtzburger decided to file a lawsuit after she was disappointed in the number of pieces of chicken that she was given as part of her “Family Fill Up” meal. Ms. Wurtzburger ordered the meal, expecting to receive what she saw in a commercial, which featured a KFC bucket overflowing with fried chicken. Instead, all she got was 8 pieces of chicken, which did not even fill up the entire bucket.
When Ms. Wurtzburger contacted Kentucky Fried Chicken to complain about her portion size, the company responded that the chicken appeared emerging from the bucket so as to display it in all of its deep-fried glory. The overflowing bucket was never meant to be an accurate depiction of the portion size that would be served with the meal. Well, that did not sit well with Ms. Wurtzburger, who decided to sue Kentucky Fried Chicken for $20 million in response to her lack of chicken.
False advertising is frowned upon throughout the United States, and every state has at least one law that requires advertising to not be intentionally misleading. Section 350 of New York’s General Business Law is what prohibits false advertising in New York. Under New York law, false advertising is defined as advertising of an item that is misleading in a material respect. If an advertisement is found to be false, then the punishment can be an injunction, a fine of up to $5000, actual damages, three times the actual damages up to $10,000 if the advertiser acted willfully or knowingly, and attorney’s fees.
In order to find KFC guilty of committing false advertisement when the company aired the “Family Fill Up” meal commercial featuring the overflowing fried chicken bucket, it must be determined that reasonable people could be misled into believing that they will receive a bucket of chicken that is indeed overflowing if they order the “Family Fill Up” meal. If it is determined that a reasonable person would have expected to receive an overflowing bucket of chicken based upon seeing the commercial, then Kentucky Fried Chicken may have committed false advertising if it can also be proven that the buckets are normally not filled to the point of having pieces of chicken rise above the top of the bucket.
The actual damages that Ms. Wurtzburger would receive would likely just be the difference between how much she paid for the meal and how much it would have cost her to have a bucket overflowing with chicken, which probably would not be a lot of money. However, the intent to display the chicken emerging from the bucket in the commercial indicates that KFC knowingly portrayed the bucket as overflowing in its commercial, which would entitle Ms. Wurtzburger to three times the amount of her actual damages. Furthermore, Kentuckey Fried Chicken may also be on the hook for covering the costs of Ms. Wurtzburger’s legal representation and for a fine paid to New York state.
Kentucky Fried Chicken can counter Ms. Wurtzburger’s argument that she was misled by the image of the overflowing chicken bucket with an argument that no reasonable person would mistakenly think that they would receive an overflowing bucket because a reasonable person would not simply go off of the image portrayed in the commercial to determine just how many pieces they would receive as part of the meal. The company can present evidence showing that the vast majority of people do not believe that their bucket of chicken will consist of more than eight pieces or that the bucket would not be overflowing with chicken. KFC can also show that it has shown similar images in the past as part of their advertisements with no ill effects or accusations of engaging in false advertising.
Whether or not KFC truly intended for those buckets to be perceived as being overabundant in the commercial, the company may now think twice about how it shows off its delectable chicken in advertisements, even if the company ends up not having to pay $20 million to Ms. Wurtzburger over the lack of anticipated chicken. At the very least, Kentucky Fried Chicken may deem it necessary to make it painfully clear just how many pieces are included in each meal in every single commercial it airs.