The ex-wife of former Subway pitchman Jared Fogle has filed suit against the fast-food sandwich chain, alleging executives knew about Fogle’s sexual attraction to young children as early as 2004 and stayed quiet about his pedophile predilections to preserve his role as a “cash cow” for the company.
Kathleen “Katie” McLaughlin (formerly Fogle), who was married to Fogle from 2010 to 2015, filed the lawsuit Monday in Hamilton Superior Court on behalf of herself and her two children, ages 3 and 5.
Fogle, a former Zionsville resident, was sentenced in November to more than 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to distributing and receiving child pornography and traveling out of state to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor.
In her suit, McLaughlin accuses Subway of invasion of privacy, misappropriation of the likenesses of her and her children, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligence.
Subway has denied knowing Fogle had a problem prior to his arrest in 2015. The company did not have an immediate response to the lawsuit.
The suit says Subway officials, including former CEO Jeff Moody, received at least three separate complaints about Fogle over a seven-year period but continued their relationship with him because he became such a valuable marketing tool.
Fogle became Subway's official spokesman in 2000 after claiming to lose 225 pounds while eating Subway sandwiches as a student at Indiana University in the 1990s.
According to the lawsuit, Jared helped Subway grow U.S. sales from $3.1 billion to $11.5 billion and establish 38,000 stores in 100 countries. "In 2013, Subway's chief marketing officer stated one-third to one-half of Subway's growth was directly attributable to Jared," the lawsuit says.
That value caused marketing and public relations employees to ignore evidence that Fogle had a problem, the lawsuit says.
In 2004, Subway’s then-senior vice president of marketing received a complaint that Fogle approached a young girl at a promotional event in Las Vegas and asked for a sex act, the suit says.
In 2008, Florida franchisee Cindy Mills notified Moody that Fogle told her that he liked to have sex with minors from ages 9 to 16, the lawsuit says. Mills alleges Moody told her not to tell him anymore about it.
“Don’t worry, [Fogle] has met someone,” Mills says Moody told her. “She is a teacher (referring to McLaughlin) and he seems to love her very much, and we think she will keep him grounded.”
Moody has denied knowing about Fogle’s problems.
In 2011, the suit says, a Florida journalist, Rochelle Harman-Walrond, said she made a complaint through Subway’s website after Fogle allegedly told her about his desire to have sex with children. She eventually worked with the FBI to record conversations with Fogle.
Subway later admitted receiving a “serious” complaint about Fogle online, but said the complaint did not imply any criminal sexual activity.
McLauglin’s suit said Subway continued to capitalize on Fogle’s fame, allowed him do promotional tours of elementary schools and promoted him as a family man after he and McLaughlin got married and had children.
“Having neither expert knowledge of a pedophile’s predatory compulsions nor seeking guidance from experts, Subway made a terribly misguided assumption that Jared’s relationship with Katie would correct his pedophile behavior and sexual interest in children,” the suit says.
A marketing campaign that ran in early 2015 used a national commercial that featured the likenesses of Fogle, McLaughlin and the two children even though McLaughlin did not give consent, she says in the suit.
“Subway then turned to Jared’s family as a marketing tool to increase profits and utilized their likenesses without their consent…” the suit alleges.
The company avoided its moral and legal obligations to alert proper law enforcement after receiving the complaints.
“Subway failed every test of responsible corporate behavior,” the suit says. “To drive sales, Subway ignored its corporate responsibility and provided a platform for him to prey on children by sending him to elementary schools all over the country.”
Noblesville law firm Church Church Hittle +Antrim is representing McLaughlin. She is seeking a jury trial and undeclared damages, including statutory damages, treble damages, attorney fees, costs and interest.