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    Scott Adams

    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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    Any business that provides gluten free options should be compensated and appreciated for their efforts! And, to bring lawsuits against these pioneers only discourages innovation. Suing P.F. Chang's is counterproductive to encouraging more entrepreneurs to offer gluten-free options. Please stop these frivolous lawsuits.

    I agree completely!! I hate cooking and I am so thankful to be able to go out to eat without fear!!

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    Thanks for the article. I agree that when we berate restaurants that are trying to do a good thing by serving gluten free properly and safely (not an easy thing to do), we discourage them from serving gluten free at all. I don't mind paying a little extra , because it does cost more to provide gluten free in a committed way like P.F. Chang's does. My counter to the negativity of the frivolous lawsuit in CA was to send an e-mail to P.F. Chang's thanking them for their ongoing commitment to gluten free. I'm hoping others might do the same.

    I sent them a note saying as someone with celiac disease I would be willing to speak on their side because I can't get Chinese food anywhere else and am so thankful for their offerings.

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    I am extremely disappointed at hearing this news, and agree with all the comments below that this is an outlandish lawsuit. We should be praising, not punishing, those places that offer gluten free options {and I am someone who is very sensitive to cross-contamination, so I can't eat just anywhere, but I MAKE choices}. And I heartily second the comments that the extra preparation, costs, and quality of gluten-free foods is worth the cost. As another quote I saw somewhere said "The question shouldn't be why is healthy [read: gluten free, or organic, or allergen-friendly, etc etc] food so expensive, but rather, why is unhealthy food so cheap?" As a person with celiac (and dairy allergy), I am personally GLAD to be forced to eat gluten free, because I am pleased that most gluten-free foods I buy at the store or even at restaurants are typically the healthiest items there/on the menu. By the way, I am a litigation attorney, but this is a bad, bad thing. I hope that P.F. Chang's doesn't decide to just settle this case... bad precedent.

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    I am one of the people that gladly pay that extra money to eat at P.F. Chang's. This is one of the very few places in my area that I can eat. This is one of the few places that I can set down and relax to enjoy my meal and not worry about getting sick. The cost of gluten free lifestyle is expensive but this is just a fact of life. It isn't the restaurants problem that we have celiac or gluten intolerance. So who do the people doing the law suit expect to pick up the cost for these restaurants to be able to serve us. So many restaurants in my area will not even try to accommodate for food allergies. These people need to shut up and stay home and allow the restaurants to serve the ones of us that appreciate the effort they put into their allergy friendly serves. I would gladly stand on P.F. Chang's side of this lawasuit. I believe this is just someone wanting money for nothing and is going to hurt the gluten free community in the long run.

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    I think this is not fair I am celiac, and know that gluten free food items cost more. I love to eat at PF Chang's.

    I am thrilled they offer gluten free items, and even offer gluten free soy sauce- their servers are well-trained, and I have no complaints. Yes, it may cost more, but any one who buys gluten free groceries knows they cost more than the conventional glutenous ones. This is a ridiculous case.

    I agree with Lisa and I have celiac disease as well.

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    I am grateful to have restaurants who offer gluten free foods and take care to avoid cross-contamination. I acknowledge that it takes extra effort on their part to do so. By not compensating them for taking these cares and precautions, we risk losing these options. While I would rather not pay higher prices, I will do so gladly to be able to have a few restaurants who care about those of us who must eat gluten free. It is MY problem, and I would certainly understand a restaurant whose management does not want to jump through the hoops necessary to ensure my food safety. Penalizing them will ensure that they will discontinue their consideration. Quit the pity party. What a selfish, self-centered person this must be.

    This lawsuit is Ridiculous and Frivolous! My son was diagnosed with celiac 7 years ago and P.F. Chang's was one of the ONLY restaurants he could eat gluten-free at in Houston Texas. $1 extra is NOTHING to be able to eat out and celebrate with family. P.F. Chang's has continually work to expand their gluten-free Menu and now even serves gluten-free Mongolian Beef which my 17 year old LOVES! The extra care and peace of mind that my son is actually eating gluten-free is worth MORE than 1 extra dollar! He has NEVER gotten sick, or suffered ANY cross-contamination P.F. Chang's.

    STOP this now before we have NO gluten-free Choices!

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    Two weeks ago I paid $1.50 extra for a gluten-free bun at Jeffery's Burgers in Menlo Park, CA, and was glad to do so. It was the first 'real' hamburger, with bun, that I have had in a restaurant in 8 years.

    It's simple economics. A special product that has a limited demand so it costs more to manufacture because of the small quantities and special requirements, will always cost more than something with a large demand (wheat bread) that can be manufactured in huge amounts with a lower cost per item.

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    Any business that provides gluten free options should be compensated and appreciated for their efforts! And, to bring lawsuits against these pioneers only discourages innovation. Suing P.F. Chang's is counterproductive to encouraging more entrepreneurs to offer gluten-free options. Please stop these frivolous lawsuits.

    Agreed. This is only going to hurt the celiac community. It will discourage restaurants from providing safe gluten free options because they have to swallow the added expense or risk being sued.

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    This is one of the few restaurants I can go to and not worry about getting sick. I fall into the super sensitive range and P.F. Chang's has never made me ill. Considering gluten-free food at the super market can cost almost double compared to regular food, I have no issue paying an extra dollar if it means I can eat out without fear. I think the nature of adding celiac disease to the Americans With Disabilities Act was to make sure we get the same options safely as everyone else. P.F. Chang's goes above and beyond to offer us that. The lawsuit will just make them get rid of their gluten free menu, as well as other restaurants because it will open the door for more lawsuits.

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    Now we have to move forward with companies that manufacture gluten-free products and grocery store that charge 3 times or more for gluten-free products compared to others.

    Oh for heaven's sake, this lawsuit is a waste of everyone's time and money. What an idiot. She should be grateful that the restaurant even offers gluten-free items. We Americans need to learn to let the free market operate instead of suing everyone right and left. Nobody is FORCING that woman to pay anything. It is her CHOICE to eat at P.F. Chang's. If she's too cheap to pay an extra buck to ensure that she doesn't get glutened, then she needs to find some other place to eat or eat at home. Idiot.

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    Any business that provides gluten free options should be compensated and appreciated for their efforts! And, to bring lawsuits against these pioneers only discourages innovation. Suing P.F. Chang's is counterproductive to encouraging more entrepreneurs to offer gluten-free options. Please stop these frivolous lawsuits.

    Exactly!

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    Jeanne: So in your way of thinking, wheat flour and gluten-free flour (despite having different ingredients that have higher costs to produce ) should all cost the consumer the same amount. How did you come up with that paradigm? If so, let's have grocery stores make EVERYTHING the same price. Nothing should cost more than something else, right? That seems like the recipe for getting grocery stores to discontinue selling gluten-free foods. If that happens, perhaps you can become the grower, processor and distributor of your own line of gluten-free products and see if your business model of having gluten-free flour (for example) can be sold for the same cost as regular wheat flour. Good luck with that.

    Sounds like the old adage of " biting the hand that feeds you" is alive and well. And where is the love for those making an effort to provide some gluten-free options.....they do not have to if they don't want to. Mercy !!!!

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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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