NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (CN) — The ex-wife of former Subway pitchman and convicted pedophile Jared Fogle sued the sandwich chain, claiming it ignored Fogle's predatory behavior and used her and their children to market the company.
Kathleen McLaughlin and her two unnamed children filed the complaint in Hamilton County Superior Court on Monday, alleging that Subway was notified of Fogle's sexual interest and activity with children on at least three separate occasions during his tenure with the company.
Its failure to properly investigate complaints and take action constitutes "intentional and reckless conduct" on the part of Subway, McLaughlin says.
Subway inadequately handled the first two complaints by dispatching a public relations rep to ask Fogle about the incidents, and the third report of Fogle's behavior was not properly investigated, according to the 19-page lawsuit.
McLaughlin claims that as early as 2004, the company's senior vice president of marketing was informed that Fogle had approached a young girl for a sex act at a company promotional event in Las Vegas. The VP then allegedly sent Subway's senior public relations manager to question Fogle about the incident, rather than talking to the victim, and no further action was taken.
According to the lawsuit, a Florida Subway franchise owner notified the company's then-CEO Jeff Moody by phone in 2008 that Fogle had made disturbing comments about children in her presence, including telling her that "he really liked them young, that he had previously had sex with minors from age 9 to 16, and suggesting that the franchise owner should prostitute herself.
Moody then allegedly interrupted the woman during the phone call, saying, "Please don't tell me any more. Don't worry, he has met someone. She is a teacher and he seems to love her very much, and we think she will keep him grounded." McLaughlin says she was the teacher that Moody referenced.
Rather than follow proper protocol and contact law enforcement, Subway allegedly sent its senior public relations manager to talk to Fogle about his behavior. Fogle promptly denied the allegations, and again they were swept under the rug, McLaughlin claims.
McLaughlin says in her lawsuit that the company misguidedly assumed that in marrying her, Fogle would be motivated to correct his pedophilia behavior.
The couple married in 2010, but McLaughlin says she did not find out about her ex-husband's behavior until after the July 7, 2015, FBI raid on their home. She says she never would have married him had she known of his criminal behavior.
In 2011, Fogle contacted a Florida journalist, requesting help in getting access to children and stating his desire to perform illegal sex acts with them, McLaughlin's lawsuit alleges.
The journalist then contacted Subway, which has since admitted that her complaint was "not properly escalated or acted upon." She later worked with the FBI to record conversations with Fogle that eventually led to his arrest.
In spite of this litany of knowledge, McLaughlin says, Subway put its financial interests first, sending its "star spokesperson" Fogle to elementary schools and other locations that hosted children, even launching a national marketing campaign called "Jared's School Tour" to combat childhood obesity. These school tours continued well after Subway had received multiple complaints of Fogle's predatory behavior, according to the lawsuit.
Furthermore, McLaughlin claims Subway saw Fogle, McLaughlin and their children as prime marketing opportunities. The company promoted Fogle as a family man and role model for children following his marriage and the birth of his children, even crafting a marketing campaign around the family, the complaint states.
A 2015 commercial called "Jared's Journey" told the story of Fogle's weight loss and introduced his family through animations, but the company never obtained consent to depict McLaughlin or her children in the commercial, she says.
Subway had good reason to skirt around the consent, McLaughlin alleges, because Fogle was at that point "so inextricably linked that Subway exploited his family despite knowing of allegations that Jared was a pedophile and failing to properly investigate those allegations."
Had the company followed standard corporate reporting protocol or consulted law enforcement or an expert, Fogle's behavior would have been reported far sooner, McLaughlin says. She claims it was simply the bottom line that motivated Subway to keep quiet, as its financial fortunes had historically risen when using Fogle as a spokesperson and nosedived when the company relied on other marketing methods.
"Subway...turned to Jared's family as a marketing tool to increase profits and utilized their likeness without their consent, all the while knowing of a series of allegations of pedophilia and sexual interest in children," the lawsuit states.
A representative from defendant Doctor's Associates Inc. dba Subway could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.
McLaughlin alleges claims of invasion of privacy, misappropriation of likeness, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence and right of publicity violations.
She seeks an unspecified amount of damages and is represented by J. Michael Antrim of Church, Church, Hittle & Antrim in Noblesville, Ind.
Fogle was sentenced to more than 15 years in prison after pleading guilty last year to charges of child pornography and sex with minors.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.