John O'Brien Jan. 6, 2015, 10:29am



CAMDEN, N.J. (Legal Newsline) – T.G.I. Friday’s is questioning whether a plaintiff and his attorneys who filed a class action lawsuit over its drink prices had a plan to do so before visiting the restaurant.




T.G.I. Friday’s takes issue with the timeline of events occurring before Michael Grace filed a class action lawsuit against the company and two other defendants in October. Grace claims he did not realize he was drinking a mixed drink that cost more than $10 until he received his check and that the restaurant should have disclosed the price on its menu.








“Despite the ‘staggering price,’ Mr. Grace paid for his drink without protest,” says the defendant’s motion to dismiss, filed Dec. 12. “Mr. Grace decided to take legal action almost immediately.”




The story begins with a separate class action filed in New Jersey state court. In that lawsuit, the judge has defined the class of plaintiffs as those who purchased drinks at a T.G.I. Friday’s until July 14.




Grace’s lawsuit contends that he visited a corporate-owned T.G.I. Friday’s three months after that cutoff date on Sept. 30. Both his and the original class action were filed by the same law firm.




“September 30, 2014, was a Tuesday,” the motion to dismiss says. “Mr. Grace filed the instant putative class action on October 6, 2014, the following Monday.




“Therefore, Mr. Grace sought out and found a law firm to represent him (the same law firm that represents plaintiffs in Dugan and that has filed many other similar class actions), signed a retainer agreement and filed his complaint, all before a full week had gone by.




“Such a chronology of events calls into question whether Mr. Grace has standing to prosecute this lawsuit because if Mr. Grace retained counsel before he went to TGIF on September 30, 2014 or if he went to TGIF intending to suffer an injury and thereby manufacture a case or controversy, he has not sustained a true injury in fact.”




Attorney Wesley Hanna of the Law Office of Sander D. Friedman is representing Grace. According to court records, the same firm is representing Debra Dugan in the older state court class action.




According to the docket in Grace’s case, the law firm did not file a response to the motion to dismiss and likely will not need to do so for some time.




Five days after the motion to dismiss was filed, the firm asked U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler to remand the case to the state court in which it was originally filed.




That motion argues that T.G.I. Friday’s has failed to adequately plead that the amount in controversy exceeds $5 million – a threshold for removal to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act.




“Rather, Defendants’ notice of removal is nothing but conjecture about what the amount of controversy might be if a given number of transactions have been consummated,” the plaintiffs attorneys wrote.




“Defendants’ notice simply does not meet the threshold of plausibility because it does not specifically allege a factual scenario that has actually taken place in which the amount in controversy has been exceeded.”




On Dec. 22, Kugler dismissed the motion to dismiss filed by T.J.I. Friday’s without prejudice, pending the resolution of the remand issue.




From Legal Newsline: Reach editor John O’Brien by email at jobrienwv@gmail.com.


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