Deli Delicious Franchise Founders Sue Their Own Son for Defamation

Deli Delicious Franchise Inc. evidently values money and control over family and free speech.  Mohammad Hobab, Zohreh Hobab, and Hesam Hobab lead the company suing their son and brother, Hadi Hobab, for speaking out against the company’s allegedly predatory practices.  Attorney Bill Littlewood of Fresno Law Firm Aaron Dowling and CORE HR Team is evidently willing to help tear a family apart and destroy the attorneyless Hadi Hobab’s right to express his opinion… at his hourly rate, of course.  Can you say SLAPP?

By father and former SLAPP target Sean Kelly.  NOTE:   I am an independent journalist and advocate and do not represent Hadi Hobab in any official or legal capacity. At the time of this writing, I have neither met him nor spoken to him. I am relying on publicly available documents for the most part, as well as relying on insiders/readers to correct me where my understanding or interpretations are incorrect or debatable.  The opinions stated are mine alone.

(UnhappyFranchisee.Com)  In Western cultures, we say “Blood is thicker than water,” meaning family relations are stronger than other bonds, such as friendship, love or, say, franchise agreements.

In the Arab world, the saying is “Blood is thicker than (mother’s) milk.”

At Deli Delicious Franchise, Inc., the Fresno, CA-based franchisor headed by husband and wife Mohammad Hobab and Zohreh Hobab and son Hesam Hobab, money and control appear to be thicker than either blood or mother’s milk.

The small, 50-unit sandwich shop franchisor run by parents Mohammad and Zohreh Hobab are suing their son and former employee, Hadi Hobab, for speaking out against Deli Delicious’ franchise practices.  (See a link to the full complaint below).

Hadi Hobab criticized the company for allegedly betraying the trust of its franchise owners by (among other things) requiring marked-up purchases from designated vendors at higher prices & inferior quality, and by providing inadequate support, especially in terms of marketing.

These same complaints are alleged by the Deli Delicious Franchisee Association (DDFA) and have been reported in several local business publications, including the Visalia Times and The Business Journal.

Deli Delicious Franchise Inc., Plaintiff, v. Hadi Hobab, Defendant, Son, Brother

Plaintiff Deli Delicious Franchise, Inc. is represented by attorney William “Bill” Littlewood of Fresno Law Firm Aaron Dowling.  Bill Littlewood is also Chief Legal Officer of CORE HR Team, the legal and consulting services firm founded by his wife, Michelle Littlewood.  Despite being a parent, Bill Littlewood was willing to draft and launch the lawsuit of parents suing their son who, apparently, cannot afford legal representation.

From my layman’s reading of the public court docket, it appears that the Hobab’s son and Defendant Hadi has not been able or willing to respond to the civil suit against him.  Deli Delicious Franchise Inc. and attorney Bill Littlewood have filed for summary judgement several times and have so far been refused.  However, a hearing for 07/17/2020 on “Order to Show Cause – Pre.”

We seek justification for this extreme action from attorney William “Bill” Littlewood, Fresno Law firm Aaron Dowling, and Underwood’s current employer CORE HR Team as to why this lawsuit is legally justifiable and professionally and personally responsible.  It appears to likely qualify as a SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation), which is a substantially meritless lawsuit filed with the purpose of silencing a critic.  From this layman’s perspective, clearly most, if not all, of the allegedly defamatory statements are either stated as the Defendant’s opinion or are substantially true – the two absolute defenses to a claim of defamation.

Did William H. Littlewood remind Deli Delicious Franchise Inc. that this lawsuit is a required disclosure for the 2020 Franchise Disclosure Document?

Is Deli Delicious Franchise Inc. Sending a Message:  Dissenters Will be Destroyed?

Ali NekumaneshHadi Hobab is a Defendant in another civil trial for his inability to meet his payment schedule on a Deli Delicious franchise.  If Hadi Hobab cannot afford legal representation, it seems clear that he will not be able to pay any of the exorbitant judgements, costs and fees demanded by his parents’ company and Mr. Littlewood.

So what is the true goal of this lawsuit?

To silence Hadi Hobab’s criticism, even if it means destroying the Hobab family?

To send a warning to any disgruntled franchisees from Mohammed Hobab: If I’m willing to destroy my own son for speaking out, imagine what Deli Delicious Franchise, Inc. can do to you?

Zohreh Hobab:  Nothing Good Can Come From a Mother Suing Her Son

Sometimes is takes a strong woman to put an end to the destruction caused by out-of-control male egos and testosterone.

I am also reaching out to Zohreh Hobab to ask whether she understands that money comes and goes, companies can be rebuilt, but there is nothing more damaging to a parent than failing to protect your child… and nothing more damaging to a family than to allow a father and a brother to attack your son.

No good whatsoever can come from this misguided action.

Does Deli Delicious Franchise truly want to be known for crushing those who question them?  Will that help them sell franchises?

Does Bill Littlewood, Aaron Dowling and CORE HR Team want to be known as the attorneys willing to destroy families just for hourly billings?

Does the SBA’s Man-of-the-Year Mohammad Hobab want to be remembered as the businessman who put money and pride ahead of his own family?

Does Hesam Hobab think that the financial rewards of suing his own brother will outweigh the personal costs and the lasting impact it will have on the Hobab family?

If the Hobabs Will Not Stand Up For Their Son, Perhaps 1st Amendment and Anti-SLAPP Organizations Will

Deli Delicious franchiseI was once sued for $35,000,000 for refusing to delete my criticism of a truly despicable businessmen (in my opinion) named Mark Golob.

I had no money to defend myself, but I refused to be intimidated.  I found resources that helped me fight back.

There are good, principled professionals out there and some are attorneys (yes, Mr. Littlewood, it’s possible).

The lawsuit against me was ruled a SLAPP by a California judge and Mr. Golob had to pay my attorney fees.

I am not an attorney, but I have had some hard fought lessons in this area.  I would be happy to help Hadi Habib identify and contact resources who may be willing to help him stand up for his freedom of speech and his right to inform prospective franchisees.

Without having researched too extensively, it seems that it could be argued that most (if not all) of the allegedly defamatory comments of Hadi Habob can be defended as either true or are clearly Hadi Habob’s opinions.   Hadi Hobab’s description of Deli Delicious marketing efforts as “anemic and sophomoric”  may, indeed, be both his stated opinion and true.

Here are the statements that the Deli Delicious Franchise Inc. complaint (DDFI) claims are defamatory:

  • [That DDFI] “is unable to support the needs of franchisees;”
  • [That DDFI] does not provide adequate marketing efforts to franchisees, describing those efforts as “anemic and sophomoric;”
  • [That DDFI] “has unqualified leadership that is sailing a ‘rudderless ship;’”
  • [That DDFI] “has officers in place with no prior experience of running a franchise;”
  • [That DDFI] “has taken loans from franchisees;”
  • [That DDFI] “is cheating its franchisees by requiring them to purchase through approved vendors.”
  • [That DDFI] “management problems with Plaintiff occurred when Defendant was removed as Chief Operating Officer in 2017; “
  • [That] “Defendant was the founder of DDFI;”
  • [That] “that the franchise community has issued a ‘vote of no confidence’ in the current leadership of DDFI.”

I don’t know whether Hadi Habob can find legal representation willing to help him defend himself and his right to express his opinion in a court of law.

Attorney Bill UnderwoodBut I will say that I and UnhappyFranchisee.Com are willing to give both sides their day in the Court of Public Opinion.  I am willing provide all parties involves, and even many not involved, the opportunity to present and argue their views no matter which side they take.

I hereby call to the stand these parties, and invite them to state their views as to whether Deli Delicious Franchise Inc. should proceed with their defamation lawsuit against Hadi Hobab, and their explanation of why or why not:

  • Mohammad Hobab, Founder, CEO, President, Chairman, Deli Delicious Franchise, Inc., Father
  • Zohreh Hobab, Senior VP, Deli Delicious Franchise, Inc., Mother
  • Hesam Hobab, Chief Development Officer, Brother
  • Deli Delicious Franchise Inc. EVP Ali Nekumanesh
  • William “Bill” Littlewood, Attorney, Aaron Dowling, CORE HR Team
  • Law Firm Aaron Dowling, Partners & Attorneys
  • Michelle Littlewood and CORE HR Team
  • DDFI management, including Bill Foley, Nate Gilbert, Foad Saffa, Juan Garcia, Jennifer Brandon
  • Deli Delicious Franchisee Association (DDFI)
  • Deli Delicious Franchises, Past & Present
  • DDFI Vendors, Associates & Customers

Please share your thoughts with a comment below, or contact me at UnhappyFranchisee [at]  Anonymous commenting is respected and correspondence can be confidential, if requested.

NOTE:  All companies and individuals discussed on Unhappy Franchisee have an open invitation to provide corrections, clarifications, rebuttals or statements of their point-of-view for publication or corrective action.  We appreciate companies that engage in open and respectful discussions.  Our goal is to give prospective franchisees and others both sides so they can make up their own minds.

If Deli Delicious Franchising Inc., Mohammad Hobab, or any of their numerous law firms would like to take a shot at MY freedom of speech, I can be contacted at the email address above.  But please make the lawsuit for more than $35,000,000, because I’ve been there, done that.


Deli Delicious Franchise Inc., Plaintiff, v. Hadi Hobab, Defendant (Complaint Document PDF)


MARK GOLOB LAWSUIT: Overview, Updates, and Discussion





TAGS: Deli Delicious, Deli Delicious Franchise Inc., Deli Delicious franchise, defamation lawsuit, SLAPP, Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation,  Mohammad Hobab, Zohreh Hobab, Hesam Hobab,  Ali Nekumanesh, William Littlewood, Bill Littlewood, Michelle Littlewood, Aaron Dowling, CORE HR Team, Bill Foley, Nate Gilbert, Sean Kelly, Deli Delicious Franchisee Association, DDFA

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