Judge Dismisses Vegan's 'Impossible' Lawsuit Against Burger King
The plaintiff took issue with the meat-free burgers being cooked on the same grill as regular beef.
On Monday, a federal judge dismissed a self-described vegan's lawsuit against Burger King, one which alleged that the fast food chain knowingly deceived vegan and vegetarian customers about its plant-based Impossible Whoppers.
Phillip Williams filed the proposed class-action lawsuit in November, after ordering an Impossible Whopper at an Atlanta drive-through and belatedly realizing that the plant-based patty was "coated in meat-products" after being cooked on the same grill as the restaurant's beef burgers. Williams said that Burger King needed to "plainly disclose" that both the Impossible and non-Impossible patties were prepared on the same equipment.
But U.S. District Judge Raag Singhal ruled that "reasonable consumers" would not have been deceived by Burger King's claims, nor were they somehow tricked into paying higher prices for the Impossible version of its signature sandwich. According to Reuters, Singhal also said that the plaintiffs failed to ask how the Impossible Whopper was cooked before they placed their orders, nor did they "request an alternative" to ensure that their food would be compatible with their dietary restrictions.
“Plaintiffs argue Burger King’s advertisement promised more than a non-meat patty,” he wrote in his decision. "This Court cannot agree. Burger King promised a non-meat patty and delivered with the ‘Impossible Burger.'"
In January, Burger King filed a motion to dismiss Williams' lawsuit, arguing that it never said that the Impossible Whopper was vegan, nor did it specify that it would be cooked on a separate grill. That legal filing, almost snarkily, suggested that, if Williams was that concerned about how his patty was being prepared, then he should've asked at least one important question before he placed his order.
"Mr. Williams [...] claims simply to have assumed that an Impossible Whopper would satisfy his own particularly strict form of veganism—which, to him, required a separate cooking method—solely because he asked a Burger King restaurant employee to 'hold the mayo,'" it wrote, adding that "a reasonable Burger King guest" would've asked how the burger was cooked.
"Moreover, [Burger King] stated on its website and elsewhere, and major media outlets widely reported, that Burger King guests may request an alternative cooking method if they do not want the Impossible Whopper cooked on the same flame broiler used for beef and chicken," the filing continued. "In other words, the smallest amount of investigation by Mr. Williams would have given him the information he claims was uniquely material to him. He cannot base his [...] claim on his asserted but unreasonable ignorance."
The plaintiffs have until July 27 to decide whether to amend their complaint against the chain.