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How dairy? Lawyer could pocket $90k in Dunkin’ case, leaving $500 for client

Dunkin' Donuts says most of its stores in the state offer both butter substitutes and packages of whipped butter.
Dunkin' Donuts says most of its stores in the state offer both butter substitutes and packages of whipped butter.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

A central Massachusetts man who sued more than 20 Dunkin’ Donuts shops for allegedly using margarine when he ordered buttered bagels would receive $500 — while his attorney collects as much as $90,000 — under the terms of proposed settlement filed in Suffolk Superior Court this week.

But customers of the stores named in the legal action will have to be content with counting calories. According to the settlement terms, 1,400 of them would each be eligible to receive three buttered baked goods — free of charge.

Jan Polanik in late March filed two suits, each targeting a cluster of Dunkin’ franchises in Eastern and Central Massachusetts. His attorney, Thomas Shapiro, has been seeking class-action status, hoping to represent anybody who ordered baked goods with butter between June 2012 and June of last year, but were given a substitute.


The settlement would bar the shops from offering fake butter in stores for a year. If they eventually returned to offering a butter substitute, they would have to clearly indicate that they were doing so.

Dunkin’ Donuts has said that most of its stores in Massachusetts offer both butter substitutes and packages of the real thing, in whipped form. The whipped butter is provided when a customer asks for it on the side, while fake butter is used when employees spread it on the product for customers, because it must be kept at room temperature.

Such food-related lawsuits aren’t unheard of. A class-action lawsuit claiming that Subway’s much-hyped footlong sandwiches were not quite a full 12 inches was settled in 2016. Attorneys in that case were awarded $520,000, while 10 named plaintiffs received $500 apiece.

A final ruling on the Dunkin’ Donuts suits likely is several months away.

Adam Vaccaro can be reached at adam.vaccaro@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamtvaccaro.