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    P.F. Chang's is Sued for Extra Charges on Gluten-Free Menu Items

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Caption: Photo: CC--Mark Crawley

    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.

    Photo: CC--Mark CrawleyThe 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).

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    This is another stupid lawsuit out of California. Everyone is out to get something for nothing. I echo some other comments. Eating gluten free is MORE expensive in general, that is the way it is. The ingredients are more expensive, the prep (especially in a restaurant) has to be handled more carefully, and if you don't want to pay the price to eat at P.F. Chang's then don't go there. I agree, paying $1 more for something to be gluten free is a deal. Some of the pizza places I go charge $5 to $8 more for a gluten free pizza and it is actually smaller than a "regular" pizza. (....and I'm happy to pay it.) All crap lawsuits like this is going to do is raise the prices even more for everybody. If you don't like paying the price, eat at home.

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    I am personally glad my issue wasn't with celiac disease.. but for the roughly two million people out there who actually suffer from it, this suit will hurt more than help.

     

    What is ridiculous is that I cannot believe that they are demanding that something that uses different ingredients and different levels or protection from cross contaminating with gluten-containing products cost the same as something from a regular menu.

     

    While this one person may win their little self-centered temper tantrum, it will just discourage all stores from offering a gluten-free menu for those that need it.

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    This lawsuit needs to be thrown out of court. Everyone knows gluten-free items are usually about 3-4 times more expensive than regular items (flours and baking mixes, etc.) This lawsuit is a slap in the face to the restaurant that is trying to accommodate your needs, Anna Marie Phillips. You are making a big mistake. You need to go after the non-organic companies making the flours and ingredients so expensive, NOT the restaurants who are welcoming you. I WILL be writing about this in my blog.

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    From someone who worked at P.F. Chang's when they were the first chain to offer a gluten-free menu this lady is trying for a "money grab," pure and simple. Chang's has gone above and beyond the call over the last 15 years to provide allergen-free dining. It's idiots like this lady that will make restaurants think twice before doing so in the future.

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    This suit will lose and lose quickly. It is sad that there are people out there who are this stupid that think they could win something like this. And it's sad that there are lawyers unwilling to counsel their clients appropriately and dissuade them from filing such ridiculous suits.

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    They are not that careful and safe. I receive food on the wrong plate all the time. I was served food breaded with regular flour and told it was "naturally gluten free". When I sent it back the server and the manager tried to bully me into accepting that load of bull. Paying extra for this poor service is outrageous.

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    My wife is gluten sensitive, not celiac, but we expect to pay a little more when eating out. Gluten free ingredients typically cost a little more, plus the process to cook gluten free is more costly due to the prep time to have clean surfaces, segregation of non-gluten free ingredients from gluten free ingredients, etc. We typically pay 2-3 dollars more per gluten free meal at other restaurants, so really a dollar more is a bargain. If this individual wins, I hope she goes after all the food industry. I am tired of paying 2-4 dollars more for gluten free products at the grocery store, as compared to their non-gluten free counter parts.

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    I hope some judge throws this out with costs assessed to the plaintiff. A more appropriate target for her wrath would be those P.F. Chang's outlets that don't believe in taking the necessary care with gluten free meals. I've only eaten in one location, and had no problems with it. Cheers to them; the small additional charge for the extra expense of keeping me from getting sick is certainly worth it. Suing them for charging more for their gluten free dishes is just wrong! If the ADA allows such a suit, it's wrong, too.

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    I think everyone is missing what she's suing for. She's saying PF Chang is charging extra for foods that are already naturally gluten free! That's ridiculous! We shouldn't be charged extra for things that are naturally gluten-free!

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    They are not that careful and safe. I receive food on the wrong plate all the time. I was served food breaded with regular flour and told it was "naturally gluten free". When I sent it back the server and the manager tried to bully me into accepting that load of bull. Paying extra for this poor service is outrageous.

    Then don't go there Cheryl.

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    Celiac.com's Founder and CEO, Scott was diagnosed with celiac disease  in 1994, and, due to the nearly total lack of information available at that time, was forced to become an expert on the disease in order to recover. Scott launched the site that later became Celiac.com in 1995 "To help as many people as possible with celiac disease get diagnosed so they can begin to live happy, healthy gluten-free lives."  In 1998 he founded The Gluten-Free Mall which he sold in 2014. He is co-author of the book Cereal Killers, and founder and publisher of Journal of Gluten Sensitivity.

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