In one of the most bizarre lawsuits ever seen, a Russian woman is suing McDonald’s over an advertisement that she claims “made” her eat hamburgers. The suit gets stranger, though, given its religious nature as well. The woman, Ksenia Ovchinnikova, claims that a McDonald’s ad forced her to break her Lent fast and eat a hamburger back in 2019. The woman is an Orthodox Christian, and a common fast done by the Orthodox during the Lenten season is to abstain from the eating of meat between the start of Lent and Orthodox Easter. She claims that she had been successful in her fast for an entire month until, one fateful day, a certain McDonald’s advertisement showed up in her life. It was this ad, she says, that “made” her break her fast and consume an animal product for the first time since the start of Lent.
The heart of the lawsuit is the claim that the ad violated Russia’s laws concerning consumer protection. The suit also claims that the ad constituted a violation of her religious belief (since it made her break a religious fast). Ksenia says that McDonald’s should have known better than to run an ad for animal products at a time when they knew Orthodox Christians would be trying their hardest to abstain from eating them. Curiously enough, although Ksenia is suing for the “moral damage” it caused her, she is only asking for 1000 rubles, which equates to about 14 American dollars.
For almost 20 years, Ksenia says, she had been a faithful Orthodox Christian. She had successfully fasted for the past 19 Lenten seasons. In Lent number 20, she says, McDonald’s caused her to slip up and violate her fast. She says that an advertisement is what caused her to rush to the nearest McDonald’s in Omsk, Russia and order a hamburger. The advertisement banner showed up, and Ksenia says “I couldn’t help myself.” The woman’s claims are strange in the eyes of many of her critics. The court has yet to set a date to adjudicate her claim and rule on the matter of 1000 rubles in “moral damage.” Many are lampooning her claims, comparing it to the notion that a lingerie ad could be held responsible for “making” a man cheat on his wife. Some are appealing to the principle of personal responsibility. They believe that the woman is at her own fault for breaking her fast and that she should not blame someone else (in this case a corporation) for her own failure. Others pointed out that this lawsuit forgets about those who do not observe Orthodox Lent. What about them? Maybe they do want to see advertisements for hamburgers. Should corporations be forced to cater to the whims of just a slice of the population? These are interesting questions, and they all factor into the lawsuit in interesting ways. Whether or not the court even agrees to hear Ksenia’s claim, it is certain that this will go down as one of the strangest lawsuits in history.