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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    P.F. Chang's Looks to Dismiss Gluten-free Disability Suit

    Celiac.com 11/16/2015 - P.F. Chang's seeking to dismiss an amended complaint filed by a woman who claims the restaurant chain violated federal anti-discrimination laws by charging higher prices for gluten-free items than for non-gluten-free items.

    Photo: CC--Mike KalasnikPlaintiff Anna Marie Phillips initially sued P.F. Chang's in California state court in December, but P.F. Chang's got the case moved to U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

    Lawyers for P.F. Chang's first moved to dismiss Phillips' class action in February, claiming her celiac disease does not make her a disabled person under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Federal Judge Ronald Whyte heard oral arguments in May, and "tentatively granted" the motion to dismiss, with a final ruling to be issued later.

    In August, the federal judge granted P.F. Chang's motion to dismiss Phillips' original complaint. The court ruled that the plaintiff failed to allege facts showing that the restaurant chain discriminated against her and other guests with celiac disease or a gluten allergy/intolerance, by charging $1 more for some gluten-free menu items compared to non-gluten-free versions of menu items with a similar name but prepared and handled much differently.

    However, Whyte did grant Phillips a leave to amend, while expressing his "reservations" that she could ever mount a viable claim using her discrimination theory.

    P.F. Chang's, in its Sept. 24 motion to dismiss the amended complaint, contends the new complaint asserts the same disability-discrimination claims and offers "few additional facts" and "none that warrant a different result."

    The plaintiff asserts, P.F. Chang's notes, that the gluten-free menu items are "essentially the same" and are "not truly different dishes" because they have the same basic ingredients.

    What do you think? Are restaurants wrong to charge more for gluten-free food? Share your thoughts and opinions below.

    Read More: Legalnewsonline.com



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    Thank you PF Chang for serving gluten-free meals. I am always willing to pay extra to make sure I have safe food to eat. This woman just wants money or fame, or both. I sincerely hope the court throws this out!

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    I am very happy when I find a restaurant that not only serves gluten-free dishes, but understands the need to have a clean prep surface and tools and training for their kitchen staff. Paying an extra $1 is no problem and I can relax and enjoy a meal out. This is a nuisance suit and should be thrown out of the court. What a waste of taxpayer money!

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    I agree that this suit needs to be dismissed. As a celiac, I know that I require special food items that are more expensive (e.g. gluten-free bread or GFsoy sauce). I also know that preparing my food requires special handling which could disrupt the flow in the kitchen. I am grateful to any restaurant who is willing to offer gluten-free alternatives to me.

     

    Requiring restaurants to offer my gluten-free alternatives at the same price will discourage restaurants from making this options available.

     

    It's not discrimination; it's a mutually beneficial deal. I get more restaurants offering food I can safely eat and I pay a slightly higher price to offset the increased expense for them to accommodate me.

     

    This is a win/win. This suit will only change the situation to a lose/lose.

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    This as a frivolous lawsuit. It should be dismissed. gluten-free food is more expensive and the restaurant staff needs to be trained to properly prepare gluten-free items so the can be safely enjoyed by celiacs. I'll gladly pay extra for a safe gluten-free meal at any restaurant that is willing to serve them.

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    It is a known fact that gluten-free Foods cost more. Whether it is in a restaurant or the grocery store. Just like Organics, supply and demand. What is so disappointing is the fact that many restaurants lie about their food prep. I have gotten sick many times from food that is supposedly prepared gluten free. Unfortunately, THEY DON'T CARE AND DARE YOU TO PROVE IT WAS THEIR RESTAURANT.

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    Why should I have to pay more for having a disease that I didn't cause? I didn't ask or choose to have celiac so it's not okay to have to pay more. I eat at Buffalo Wild Wings. I can only eat the nachos and I modify it a lot. They do not charge me extra and often the manager makes my food because he wants me to keep coming back as a customer. That is what a restaurant is supposed to do. P.F. Changs makes it seem like they are doing us a big favor cause we have this disease and they are going to make us pay for it. I hope the woman wins. I shouldn't be punished for this and I have a right to have a normal life. Well as normal as I can with this disease.

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    It is a known fact that gluten-free Foods cost more. Whether it is in a restaurant or the grocery store. Just like Organics, supply and demand. What is so disappointing is the fact that many restaurants lie about their food prep. I have gotten sick many times from food that is supposedly prepared gluten free. Unfortunately, THEY DON'T CARE AND DARE YOU TO PROVE IT WAS THEIR RESTAURANT.

    Don't eat at those Restaurants. That's your choice. ..jf..

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    Why should I have to pay more for having a disease that I didn't cause? I didn't ask or choose to have celiac so it's not okay to have to pay more. I eat at Buffalo Wild Wings. I can only eat the nachos and I modify it a lot. They do not charge me extra and often the manager makes my food because he wants me to keep coming back as a customer. That is what a restaurant is supposed to do. P.F. Changs makes it seem like they are doing us a big favor cause we have this disease and they are going to make us pay for it. I hope the woman wins. I shouldn't be punished for this and I have a right to have a normal life. Well as normal as I can with this disease.

    To pay for a service is worth it! If you don't like it let the owner know you won't be back because of that. They will decide if it's worth it or not!

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    Get real! it's a free country. Nobody forces you to buy anything. It's your choice. If you don't want to pay $1.00 more then go eat somewhere else. Here's what else costs more : sugar free, salt free, low carb, kosher, cafein free (decaf) coffee, low calorie, etc. And nobody complains.

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    Why should I have to pay more for having a disease that I didn't cause? I didn't ask or choose to have celiac so it's not okay to have to pay more. I eat at Buffalo Wild Wings. I can only eat the nachos and I modify it a lot. They do not charge me extra and often the manager makes my food because he wants me to keep coming back as a customer. That is what a restaurant is supposed to do. P.F. Changs makes it seem like they are doing us a big favor cause we have this disease and they are going to make us pay for it. I hope the woman wins. I shouldn't be punished for this and I have a right to have a normal life. Well as normal as I can with this disease.

    Why should we be condemned to not being able to eat out, or just be able to safely order only one lousy appetizer off an entire menu?! I'll gladly pay an extra dollar for PF Chang's extra care and increased costs because my idea of a normal life is being able to go out with friends and not stress about whether I'm going to either get glutened or starve.

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    As an owner of a Culver's restaurant, we were the first large chain to offer a gluten free bun. This lawsuit is ridiculous!!! All of you people that support it please realize that we do this as a service to our gluten-free guests, we lose money on every individual gluten-free bun we sell because they cost right around $1.00 when we buy them and we sell them for $1.00, so by the time we pay to train the team to observe proper precautions (not to mention they extra time it takes to prepare a gluten-free order) it is easily a loss. We can only hope that the person who needs gluten-free either buys other items or brings people that we can make money on (and 90% do and are super appreciative). It is not about discrimination, I am happy to prepare you a hamburger with no bun and observe all of the proper procedures to make sure you are served safe food that will not get you glutened. If you have never been to a Culver's Restaurant, they are probably one of the most allergy friendly restaurants in the market, they have buttons for almost every allergy, and take them very seriously. Keep in mind folks if we charged what we needed to cover overhead, labor, and food cost, the price would be north of $3 just for the bun alone at this point. As gluten-free becomes more and more mainstream the prices will drop, and then maybe we could offer at regular price, but unfortunately gluten-free is seen more as a FAD at this point rather than a solution to an illness. I can not speak for other restaurants, but my guess is the more of this type of legal action, the less gluten-free options you will see in the market for everyone.

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    Why should I have to pay more for having a disease that I didn't cause? I didn't ask or choose to have celiac so it's not okay to have to pay more. I eat at Buffalo Wild Wings. I can only eat the nachos and I modify it a lot. They do not charge me extra and often the manager makes my food because he wants me to keep coming back as a customer. That is what a restaurant is supposed to do. P.F. Changs makes it seem like they are doing us a big favor cause we have this disease and they are going to make us pay for it. I hope the woman wins. I shouldn't be punished for this and I have a right to have a normal life. Well as normal as I can with this disease.

    Suzan, the restaurant didn't give you celiac disease. Why should they bear the burden of the extra cost? P.F. Chang's is doing us a big favor. Quit feeling sorry for yourself and try to appreciate that companies like this are trying to make your life better by giving you options.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in biology, anatomy, medicine, science, and advanced research, and scientific methods. He previously served as Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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    Celiac.com 10/06/2014 - Anyone who has ever had difficulty ordering gluten-free food at a restaurant can likely appreciate the scene that recently played out at a San Francisco restaurant called SO.
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    Celiac.com 02/02/2015 - On December 9th, 2014, Anna Marie Phillips filed a lawsuit in Santa Clara County Superior Court against P.F. Chang's China Bistro, Inc., headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, for discrimination and violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The suit claims that P.F. Chang's forces people with celiac disease to pay higher prices for gluten-free versions of their menu items. According to the complaint, P.F. Chang's charges one extra dollar per gluten-free item, however, they do not add these surcharges on to their regular menu items.
    The lawsuit is seeking class action status, and claims that over the past four years more than 3,000 people in 39 states have been affected at P.F. Chang's 204 restaurants. The plaintiff claims that the gluten-free diet is medically necessary for those with celiac disease, and those who eat at P.F. Chang's are forced to pay higher prices for gluten-free dishes, even if the dishes they order are naturally gluten-free. The plaintiff asserts that this arbitrary and unequal treatment constitues discrimination against consumers who have celiac disease and gluten intolerance, and that the added surcharge is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
    In the lawsuit Ms. Phillips and her attorneys, Anthony J. Orshansky and Justin Kachadoorian of Counselone, P.C. in Beverly Hills, California, seek an immediate injunction against any further surcharges on gluten-free items, civil penalties, compensatory damages and punitive damages. P.F. Chang's is represented by Jon P. Karbassakis and Michael K. Grimaldi of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP, in Los Angeles, California.
    On January 23, 2015, P.F. Chang's removed the case to U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (case number 5:15-cv-00344).
    Source:
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    Jefferson Adams
    Celiac.com 08/05/2015 - Should restaurants be required to provide gluten-free food at the same prices it charges for regular gluten-containing items? That question is at the heart of a lawsuit brought by a woman who claims P.F. Chang's has violated federal anti-discrimination laws by charging more for gluten-free items. A federal judge has now "tentatively" dismissed that lawsuit.
    P.F. Chang's had asked the judge in February to dismiss Anna Marie Phillips' class action lawsuit, claiming that her celiac disease does not make her a disabled person under the Americans with Disabilities Act. At that time, lawyers for Chang's urged U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte to dismiss the suit to prevent what they termed a 'negative impact' upon restaurant industry as a whole.
    Phillips originally sued P.F. Chang's in a California state court in December, but the case was later moved to U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. According to the motion, the dismissal rests largely on the failure of the plaintiff "to plausibly allege that she is disabled under any applicable statute since her condition constitutes only a minimal limitation on the major life activity of eating."
    In words that may raise the eyebrows of many people impacted by celiac disease, the judge goes on to say that the plaintiff can "still consume all gluten-free foods. No authority supports plaintiff's baseless position that she is disabled." P.F. Chang's also maintained that, because it charges the same price to all customers of its gluten-free items, it is charging based on the food cost, not adding a surcharge based on the gluten-free status of the customer, and is thus not discriminating on the basis of disability.
    The class action suit states that because a gluten-free diet is medically necessary for individuals with celiac disease, gluten-free patrons have no choice but to order at the higher price.
    Phillips brought suit on behalf of persons with celiac disease or gluten intolerance who ordered items from P.F. Chang's gluten-free menu in California within four years prior to the suit.
    In an interesting legal wrinkle, the CEO of the Celiac Disease Foundation said in a February Legal Newsline article that it did not agree with Phillips' claims.
    "Celiac Disease Foundation recognizes that restaurants bear a financial burden for the employee training and other accommodations that are required to serve meals that are safe for those with celiac disease," Marilyn G. Geller said.
    P.F. Chang's cited the article in its motion to dismiss.
    What do you think? If P.F. Chang's provide gluten-free food in accordance with the law, must it provide the food at the same price as its non-gluten-free items, or can it charge more to reflect its costs?
    Read more at: Legalnewsline.com

    Jefferson Adams
    Celiac.com 11/06/2015 - A San Francisco startup has begun a wait-list for a pocket device designed to allow people with gluten allergies to test quickly gluten levels in their food.
    According to the company, 6SensorLabs, the device, called Nima, is a portable, handheld gluten detector that could make dining out safer for people who need to avoid gluten for medical reasons.
    Nima works by loading a half-teaspoon sample of food into a test tube and pop that into a triangle-shaped sensor. To avoid cross-contamination, Nima requires a new disposable capsule for each test.
    The sensor assesses the contents of the capsule, and detects gluten down to 20 parts per million. The device then provides a "yes" or "no" within two minutes. "No" signals that no gluten was detected and that the food is safe to eat, while a "yes" indicates that the food contains gluten.
    The retail price of a Nima starter kit, which includes the sensor, three disposable test capsules, a charging cable and a carrying pouch, will be $249.
    Read more at nimasensor.com.

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