Litigation Outside of the Bun

Taco Bell has been the target of class-action false advertising lawsuit over the beef content of their tacos, summarized here in this video from the Associated Press. The Statement of Claim by California law firms Blood, Hurst & O’Reardon LLP, and Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles is available here.

Ashby Jones of the Wall Street Journal points out that most corporate lawsuits result in this approach to crisis management:

1) Say as little as possible; but . . .

2) Deny the allegations; and . . .

3) If anyone presses further, say “it’s corporate policy not to talk about pending litigation” and . . .

4) Tell your lawyers to start moving fast on the motion to dismiss.

This time around though, Taco Bell is responding differently.

They reacted at first with the typical crisis communications response. Then they decided instead to run this full-page ad in newspapers in January in a number of papers, including the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and New York Times:

“The claims made against Taco Bell and our seasoned beef are absolutely false. Our beef is 100% USDA inspected, just like the quality beef you buy in a supermarket and prepare in your home. It is then slow-cooked and simmered in our unique recipe of seasonings, spices, water, and other ingredients to provide Taco Bell’s signature taste and texture.” ... “So here are the REAL percentages: 88% Beef and 12% Secret Recipe.”

In addition to the ad, Taco Bell ran a statement on their website, along with a YouTube video of Taco Bell President, Greg Creed. They’re even giving away free tacos to the first 10 million people in the U.S. who like their Facebook page,

What’s not to “Like” about free tacos?

Creed also indicated in the media they are considering their own litigation for sullying the company’s reputation,

Attacking a brand is like attacking a person. It’s just unacceptable when there aren’t any facts to support it.

Given the new Apology Act in Ontario, corporate counsel should look to campaigns like this one by Taco Bell as a better way to handle reputation management and engage the public over contentious litigation.


  1. Very interesting article, and I suspect the advertising offensive is a far more savvy reaction than the mistrustful crisis management silent approach founded in tradition. I found myself almost liking the chummy candour… right up to the possible threat of a countersuit, which I find incongruous. That seems to fall back on “litigation bun” basics, no?
    SLAPP suits may warrant a Facebook “poke” rather than a “like” for Taco Bell. This so long as drawing attention to concerns about actual beef percentages can be considered public interest.