Yesterday, we told you that calorie-counts on restaurant menus had (predictably) resulted in a class-action lawsuit. On Tuesday, a Seattle law firm sued Applebee’s for “misrepresenting nutritional content of menu items.” Apparently, this opened the floodgates.
This morning we learned that the same plaintiff has filed a second suit against another major casual-dining restaurant chain, Brinker International. (Brinker operates Chili’s, On the Border, and Romano’s Macaroni Grill.)
Interestingly, this suit was filed in U.S. Distrist Court in Dallas, which is the backyard of Stephen Gardner, the director of litigation for the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). There’s no word yet on whether CSPI is directly involved with either of these cases. But as we mentioned yesterday, the group began laying the groundwork for this kind of action in its 2007 investigation of the accuracy of calorie counts currently listed on menus.
These cases have the potential to establish a dangerous precedent. If offering consumers nutritional information exposes restaurants to claims of “engaging in unfair and deceptive business practices by misrepresenting the nutritional information,” the recent string of menu labeling laws will effectively turn restarants into a trial-lawyers cash cow.