Florida Attorney Anthony Russo Sues Hershey for False Advertising
Feb 8, 2024
Delray Beach, Florida – It sounds like a joke, but Florida attorney Anthony Russo, founder of The Russo Firm, was serious when he filed a class-action lawsuit against candy conglomerate Hershey for false advertising.
The cause of action? Hershey produced a Halloween edition of its famous Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, with its wrapper depicting the candies as jack-o-lanterns, complete with eyes and a cute, jagged smile cut in the chocolate, showing the peanut butter beneath.
Customers who bought the Peanut Butter Cups opened them to find something different: No eyes, no jagged smile. Just an ugly, vaguely pumpkin-shaped chocolate blob covering the peanut butter center. In short, an ordinary, if oddly misshapen, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.
Same with a supposedly ghost-shaped white-chocolate version of the Peanut Butter Cup: scary eyes and mouth on a package that wrapped nothing but a pale blob coating a peanut butter interior. Football and Halloween-bat versions of the Peanut Butter Cup have left additional customers feeling cheated, as they lacked the laces and eyes depicted on their respective wrappers.
On behalf of his clients, Russo sued Hershey for false advertising in December 2023 under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.
Hershey doesn’t think it’s a joke, and it isn’t laughing. Not at the $5 million that Russo seeks from the lawsuit. And Hershey is not laughing at the very real possibility that Russo could win far more than $5 million as additional disgruntled Hershey customers join the suit.
Russo has filed similar cases, including against Wendy’s and Arby’s. He sued Burger King over ads that showed the Whopper as much bigger, with twice the meat and piled far higher with tomatoes, onion, and pickles than the actual item the restaurant serves.
He won a $1.4 billion case to punish Eli Lilly’s illegal and fraudulent marketing of Zyprexa and $520 million for AstraZeneca’s illegal off-label marketing of Seroquel.
While the facts and causes of action differ, Russo sees the same basic principle in all of these cases: Whether it’s a candy bar or a deadly defect on a boat or a dangerous recommendation to misuse a drug, the product must safely do or be what the manufacturer promises. If anyone gets away with violating this trust, others will rush to swindle the public.
The lawsuit against Hershey intends to send that message, Russo says.
“Today it’s a piece of chocolate or a fast food item,” says Russo. “Tomorrow, it’s your vehicle that takes you back and forth to work. And then next year it might be your home, where you have an expectation your family is going to be protected and have a roof over your head.”
The suit isn’t primarily about the money, either, says Russo. None of the lawsuits he’s filed are. They’re about getting corporations to change their behavior.
Every complaint he files, Russo says, including this one, contains a non-monetary request for relief: That the defendant stop using deceptive behavior or producing dangerous products.
He hopes his suit against Hershey causes other corporations to take notice—and responsibility. If so, they may prevent cases with more deadly ramifications—like the $200 million suit Russo won against Malibu Boats for a faulty design that killed a seven-year-old boy.
“It’s much easier to address the wrongdoing at this stage, and that’s why we do it, so we don’t have to address it later,” Russo says of the Hershey case. “It’s like having a little mole on your hand. You get to take it off or you let it turn into, God forbid, a really bad case of skin cancer where it’s stage four and too late. Then you have to have party body parts removed.”
Reporters who want more information about the case or consumers who want to join the lawsuit against Hershey can visit TheRussoFirm.com.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA
Kelly v. The Hershey Company
Case No. 8:23-cv-02977
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