John O'Brien Feb. 10, 2015, 2:37pm



SAN JOSE, Calif. (Legal Newsline) – A national organization that advocates for sufferers of celiac disease does not seem to agree with a recent class action lawsuit filed by one such individual.




Anna Marie Phillips sued P.F. Chang’s in December in a California state court, alleging that extra charges on the restaurant’s gluten-free menu violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.








Celiac disease is a disability, Phillips claims, and it is unlawful for a restaurant to force her to pay higher prices for gluten-free dishes.




Marilyn G. Geller, the CEO of the Celiac Disease Foundation, was asked by Legal Newsline if she had a comment on the claim.




“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,” Geller said.




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.




Surcharges for gluten-free items are claimed to occur even where the items at issue may naturally be gluten free, such as vegetable dishes, the complaint says.




Asserting arbitrary and unequal treatment, the paintiff contends that P.F. Chang’s discriminates against consumers with celiac disease and gluten intolerance; and that by adding a surcharge, violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.




Phillips brings 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 response to the lawsuit, P.F. Chang’s removed the case to federal court in San Jose, Calif., under the Class Action Fairness Act.




Under CAFA, a defendant may remove a class action to federal court if it can argue the amount in controversy exceeds $5 million.




P.F. Chang’s wrote that there are approximately 36 of its restaurants in California, and the plaintiff’s attorneys have requested a penalty of $4,000 for each violation.




The company estimates there are 3,833 class members, with only 1,250 needed to reach the $5 million figure.




Phillips is represented by Anthony J. Orshansky and Justin Kachadoorian of Counselone, P.C. in Beverly Hills, Calif. The defendant is represented by Jon P. Karbassakis and Michael K. Grimaldi of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP, of Los Angeles.




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


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