June 1979 marked the debut of one of the fast-food industry's most genius marketing concepts: the Happy Meal. By adding a small toy to its popular burger-and-fries combo, McDonald's created an enticing children's menu item that generates big business. A November 2010 study conducted by Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity found that 41 percent of parents claimed their children ask to go to McDonald's on a weekly basis, and 22 percent of parents take their children to McDonald's at least once a week.
Experts say Parham isn't likely to obtain class certification because all class members couldn't have been identically affected by the allegedly deceptive advertising.
The fact that Parham was filed in California is significant. A San Francisco ordinance that takes effect in December shows how the state's strong consumer-protection laws can shape national corporate strategies.
Parham is a reminder to corporate counsel that the regulatory climate can greatly influence litigation. Experts say companies whose products or services touch upon hot-button issues such as nutrition should monitor watchdog groups' latest actions. When faced with litigation threats from such groups, companies should thoroughly analyze the challenged conduct or product before initiating reforms or fighting allegations.