A class action lawsuit was filed against Dunkin’ claiming that the upcharge for alternative milks in its drinks allegedly discriminates against people with lactose intolerance and violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The motion was filed in a district court in Northern California, but the 10 plaintiffs cite upcharges at Dunkin’ locations in California, New York, Massachusetts, Texas, Colorado, and Hawaii.

Here's what the plaintiffs are seeking.

Dunkin’ acknowledged the lawsuit last Friday, January 26, and the chain has until March 4 to respond. The lawsuit seeks $5 million in damages for these 10 customers who have been purchasing drinks from Dunkin’ since 2018. The typical upcharge at Dunkin’ for oat, almond, soy, or coconut milk in a latte or other espresso drink with high milk content is 50 cents. Currently, there is no upcharge for adding a non-dairy milk alternative to a regular hot or iced coffee. But the plaintiffs allege that over the years and depending on the time and location, they have been charged up to $2.15 extra.

Attorney Bogdan Enica will be representing the 10 plaintiffs. Enica’s law firm also filed a similar suit against Starbucks in 2022, which has not yet finished — Starbucks filed a motion to dismiss, but it has not yet been approved by a court.

Here's how Dunkin' might argue its case.

An argument possible for Dunkin’s defense is that the chain does make accommodations for other health risks besides lactose intolerance. The 25-page lawsuit acknowledges that Dunkin’ does provide free modifications like sugar-free syrup and caffeine-free drinks to cater towards people who have or are at risk for diabetes or people who have blood pressure issues like hypertension. However, I think these plaintiffs have a point (although maybe not a $5 million dollar one). It does seem a little unfair to people who have health conditions that prevent them from consuming regular milk, or even just have dietary preferences like veganism.

The word of this trial is going to be reasonable: the ADA says that public entities should make “reasonable modifications” for people with disabilities. Another complexity is if Dunkin’ can or should differentiate between customers who really can’t have dairy and customers who just prefer not to.

Here's what could happen.

You could argue that Dunkin needs this “surcharge” to make up for the higher cost of alternative milks. But I think that a national chain like Dunkin’ makes enough profit where the chain can afford the margin.

“Defendant's Surcharge is the same for all Non-Dairy Alternatives, making no distinction among the costs of the various different Non-Dairy Alternatives,” the lawsuit states, according to Business Insider. “In fact, Dunkin created a separate, higher-priced menu, aimed at customers who cannot ingest milk.”

In addition to the cost of damages, the plaintiffs also want a trial in front of a jury. So, even though this might sound like free oat milk in your latte could be right around the corner, it could be years until we actually saw a change in cost.