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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Taco Bell Might Sue the Law Firm That Sued It


Taco Bell might sue the Alabama law firm that filed a lawsuit against it, claiming the company's meat products do not meet the definition of beef as spelled out in federal guidelines.

The Beasley Allen law firm, of Montgomery, announced last week that it had dropped the lawsuit because Taco Bell had made "changes in marketing and product disclosure." But Taco Bell officials said they had changed nothing as a result of the lawsuit, emphasizing that no money was exchanged and no settlement agreement was reached.

Greg Creed, CEO of Taco Bell, said the company could sue Beasley Allen, and it probably has several viable legal avenues to pursue. "I'm definitely sure that we could sue them for the damage they have caused to our brand," Creed told CNN.

News reports indicate the lawsuit indeed caused damage. Christian Science Monitor reports that Taco Bell spent $3 to $4 million for a nationwide advertising campaign to combat charges raised in the lawsuit. Associated Press reports that Taco Bell's first-quarter operating profit declined 13 percent.

Beasley Allen has pretty much gone into hiding since dropping the lawsuit. Dee Miles, chief attorney on the case, has not been available for interviews. I sent an e-mail last Thursday to partner Jere Beasley, requesting an interview about the Taco Bell lawsuit. He has not responded.

What grounds does Taco Bell have for a lawsuit against Beasley Allen? I don't pretend to be an expert on business torts, but I suspect some form of tortious interference might be one route. The company probably has a case for malicious prosecution and abuse of process. Both of those torts involve misuse of the legal process to intentionally cause harm to an individual or entity.

From Taco Bell's perspective, the best part of a lawsuit might be the opportunity to expose some embarrassing information about the Beasley Allen firm. And we know that such information exists.

As we reported last week, the firm has worked several times with Birmingham lawyer Rob Riley, the son of former Governor Bob Riley. According to a federal whistleblower lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of Alabama, Rob Riley has engaged in Medicare fraud and other unlawful activities through a company he owns called Performance Group LLC.

U.S. District Judge William M. Acker, an 83-year-old Reagan appointee, dismissed the whistleblower case without prejudice after refusing to give the government an extension of time to investigate the claims. Such extensions routinely are granted in cases brought under the U.S. False Claims Act, so Acker's actions appear to be an effort to protect a member of a prominent Republican family.

A dismissal without prejudice means the claims can be refiled, and Rob Riley might be in serious trouble if  the case ever lands with a legitimate judge who isn't trying to cover up for him.

Meanwhile, a Taco Bell lawsuit might give the company an opportunity to look into Beasley Allen's dirty laundry, especially its ties to Rob Riley. That definitely would make me want to think outside the bun.

Below is CNN's report about dismissal of the lawsuit, and Taco Bell's Greg Creed makes it clear he is not real happy with a certain Alabama law firm.

Update (10:15 p.m. CDT, April 26)--Rob Poetsch, a spokesperson for Taco Bell, contacted us this evening and said the company has not made a decision about suing the Beasley Allen firm. Poetsch said CEO Greg Creed's statement to CNN was that the company definitely "could" sue the law firm, and our post has been updated to include that correction. States Poetsch: "To clarify, Taco Bell has not announced that it will sue the law firm, however we have said that we are meeting with our franchisees to discuss all legal options. Right now we are focused on communicating that the suit has been voluntarily dismissed, and that this sets the record straight about the high quality of our seasoned beef."



9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Poetic Justice.

I can only hope somebody somewhere in the Schnauzer community might want to investigate the dirty laundry of these Rovian shill law firms also?

http://www.willcoxandsavage.com/paa/attorney_profile.php?id=83

http://www.kaufmanandcanoles.com/attorneys/hunter_w._sims_jr..htm

David W. Bouchard Esq.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A35473-2005Mar14.html

Anonymous said...

Taco Bell called its product "seasoned beef". I think they might want to leave well enough alone. Beware of sleeping dogs. Beasley Allen no doubt has its warts but to say that they deliberately misled is a stretch and will be tough to prove in court.

Almoderate said...

The claim that the lawsuit made was grasping at technicality straws. It was pretty clear the intent was to smear the chain and maybe get some money out of it. I'd say that TB definitely has more than enough grounds to counter.

Looks to me like Beasley bit off more than they could chew, no pun intended. Next time think your cunning plan all the way through.

legalschnauzer said...

Almoderate:

Like you, I remain baffled as to why the Beasley firm took this case, with apparently little or nothing to back up its claims. Is the firm hurting for money? Hard to see how, since it's probably the best-known plaintiffs' firm in the state. Does it need attention? If so, that's pretty pathetic.

Anonymous said...

"Above the law."

That's the mentality of these law firms. And it's been my experience that they are:

Public Law 105-119, Title VI § 617, 111 Stat. 2440, 2519 (1997), commonly referred to as the “Hyde Amendment,” enables a prevailing party in a criminal case to recoup
attorney’s fees and litigation expenses from the government in cases where the government’s position was vexatious, frivolous, or in bad faith.

Enacted November 26, 1997, the Hyde Amendment applies to any criminal case instituted during fiscal year 1988 and in any fiscal year thereafter.

http://bcove.me/xh82za7f

Robby Scott Hill said...

Greed. Unbridled greed is why they took the case.

Your blog has corporate defense firms and debt collectors as well as unethical plaintiff's firms off balance and on the run. The Legal Schnauzer is costing them some serious $$$ & is cutting into their projected profits.

They were going to buy yachts and jets stocked with the finest wines and hard liquors with money that never materialized. They are very concerned with what's being said on this blog. Even Working Class People are overwhelmingly choosing non-judicial forms of dispute resolution like arbitration to get the lawyers out of the middle and Beasley's firm can't stand it.

Since Beasley was so eager to pro bono me right out of a job at the State Lands Division, perhaps I should offer some pro bono help to my former employer, Taco Bell.

Robby Scott Hill said...

Can anybody say Alabama Litigation Accountability Act?

Anonymous said...

Attorney for the Va.Pilot

http://www.willcoxandsavage.com/paa/attorney_profile.php?id=83
-
Karl Rove's connections to editors of U.S. Newspapers.

Notice the January6,2005 dates:

Virginian-Pilot's editor to retire

Published: January 7, 2005

THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT

NORFOLK - Kay Tucker Addis , who has led news coverage of The Virginian-Pilot for the past eight years , and her husband, local columnist Dave Addis , will retire on March 1, publisher D.R. Carpenter III announced Thursday.january6,2005

The pair combined for 57 years of service with Landmark Communications Inc. , The Virginian-Pilot's parent company. No successors have been named.

Kay Addis, The Virginian-Pilot's ...

-----

The first e-mail, dated Jan. 6, 2005, is from a White House counsel's office assistant. It indicates that Rove had stopped by that office to ask lawyer David Leitch whether a decision had been made to keep the U.S. attorneys in their jobs. The e-mail does not suggest that Rove advocated one outcome over another.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/14/AR2007031400519_2.html

jeffrey spruill said...

Conrad Shumadine is such a coward his law firm changed his personal profile site so he would not have to answer annoying questions about his criminal activities.

But freedom loving-- ethical folk are onto you Conrad.

Here's is new profile site.

http://www.willcoxandsavage.com/attorneys/view/conrad-m.-shumadine