Subway: Time to end 'outrageous' lawsuit over its tuna

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The Subway restaurant logo is seen on a napkin in this illustration photo August 30, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas White/Illustration/File Photo

By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) – Subway urged a federal judge in California to throw out a lawsuit accusing the chain of deceiving consumers about the content of its tuna sandwiches, wraps and salads.

In a court filing on Friday, Subway Restaurants Inc said the plaintiffs offered no facts to support their “frivolous” claim that the products did not contain “100% sustainably caught skipjack and yellowfin tuna” or might have contained tuna “from anything less than healthy stocks, for example Albacore and Tongol.”

Subway also said the plaintiffs’ lawyers should be sanctioned, calling their conduct “frankly, outrageous.”

Those lawyers did not immediately respond on Monday to requests for comment.

The lawsuit filed in January by Karen Dhanowa and Nilima Amin had said Subway’s tuna products were “completely bereft of tuna,” and concocted to “imitate the appearance of tuna” so Subway could charge premium prices.

An amended complaint on June 7 removed the “no tuna” claim, but maintained that Subway’s “malicious” labeling, marketing and advertising of its tuna products was false and misleading.

In Friday’s filing, Subway said the negative media attention from the lawsuit hurt thousands of franchisees by depressing sales of a best-selling product.

“While Subway has offered the plaintiffs’ and their counsel a graceful exit from the morass they had created by simply dismissing their claims with prejudice and issuing a public apology, they have instead doubled down on their destructive behavior with new, equally unsupportable claims,” Subway said.

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Subway recently had more than 37,500 locations worldwide, including more than 24,600 in the United States and Canada.

The proposed class action covers California purchasers of Subway tuna products after Jan. 20, 2017.

In a June 20 article, the New York Times said a lab analysis of Subway tuna purchased in Los Angeles could not pinpoint a species of fish, meaning that the contents were heavily processed or contained no tuna.

Subway revamped its menu this month but made no changes to its tuna, saying an upgrade wasn’t needed.

The case is Amin et al v Subway Restaurants Inc et al, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 21-00498.

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