As a matter of business ethics, I won't loose any sleep over this. McDonald's defrauded its customers, and and now it must pay the price for it.
On the other hand, if the class action suit had failed, I wouldn't loose any sleep over it either. According to the San Francisco Chronicle
, "the settlement is another big public splash for [attorney Steven] Joseph in his battle against trans fats. In May 2003, Joseph made international news when he sued Kraft Inc. to stop the sale of Oreos to California children because the cookies were high in trans fats. Two weeks after an ensuing flood of publicity, Joseph dropped the suit, saying he had accomplished his goal of raising public awareness about trans fats. Recently, after his organization persuaded 18 restaurant owners in Tiburon to use trans fat-free cooking oil for frying, the group dubbed the Marin County town 'America's first trans fat-free city.'"
In other words, Mr. Joseph is yet another self-absorbed trial lawyer, he's obsessed with a food scare, and he has managed to pull off yet another publicity stunt. If he had failed in this attempt, I wouldn't have shed any tears over it either. So, from a cheerleader's perspective, I'd be fine with the outcome of the lawsuit either way; maybe slightly finer with McDonald's paying.
But as someone who doesn't know enough about the American legal system and would like to learn more, I found this to be yet another demonstration of how poor my intuition about your system is. For example, if the heart of this matter is that McDonald's lied about what was in its fries, I would expect this to be a criminal fraud case. Why wasn't it? If it is a tort case about product liability or something, how, I would expect the plaintiff to demonstrate that McDonald's caused 8.5 million dollars worth of harm to its cusomers (possibly more, because the plaintiff probably settled for somewhat less than he felt entitled to.) In what sense did the plaintiff demonstrate such harm? I would appreciate any light you could cast on this.