Lawsuit against TGI Friday's over potato skins likely lawyer-driven, legal reform group says

By John Suayan | Apr 12, 2019

NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) – A prolific class action lawyer has sued TGI Fridays over its potato skins, alleging she was deceived by the packaging. 

Attorneys C.K. Lee and Anne Seelig with the law firm Lee Litigation Group PLLC, of New York, filed the 23-page original petition on behalf of Solange Troncoso and all other persons similarly situated against TGI Friday’s Inc. on March 27 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

According to the lawsuit, Troncoso, a Bronx County resident, purchased a bag of TGI Fridays Sour Cream & Onion Potato Skins chips from a convenience store in the Bronx for $1.99. She claims that the snack “does not contain any actual potato skins” despite what was on its label, the complaint states.

Adam Morey with the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York told Legal Newsline he “is not sure about the merits of the claim,” but suits similar to Troncoso’s “are driven by the lawyer and not by the plaintiff.”

“New York is actually the No. 2 jurisdiction in food marketing claims,” said Morey, who added that he was not surprised the litigation was initiated in New York.

Morey described Lee's firm as a “prolific” filer of class actions in New York and around the country.

“You see a lot of these claims filed in the Southern and Eastern District(s) in New York and they’re always about things like what’s ‘all-natural’… I would be surprised if a reasonable consumer came across the information and said, ‘I need to hire a lawyer,’” he said.

Morey is not entirely sure of the success rate of food marketing litigation.

“A lot of these suits are filed as ‘strike suits’ against companies with deep pockets, so they settle quickly,” he said.

The suit states the plaintiff was injured by the allegedly deceptive representations on the snacks.

“The plaintiff Troncoso purchased the product relying on defendant’s representations on the product packaging,” the complaint states. “As a result of defendant’s deceptive conduct as alleged herein, plaintiff Troncoso was injured when she paid money for a product that did not deliver the qualities it promised and misled her as to its contents.”

The suit claims that TGI Friday's Inc. does not list potato skins as an ingredient for the chips, asserting “the only potato ingredients that can be seen in the ingredient lists are ‘potato flakes’ and ‘potato starch.’”

“In the industrial production of potato flakes, potatoes are peeled. The peeled skins are not further processed to be reintegrated into the production process. Numerous industry diagrams and explanations of potato flakes production includes peeling and removal of the potato skins,” the lawsuit says. 

“The same is true for the industrial production of potato starch. The peeled skins are not further processed to be reintegrated into the production process, but is instead treated as a zero value waste product.”

TGI Friday’s Inc.'s “use of potato flakes and potato starch to form the potato basis from which the products are made indicates that the products do not in fact contain any potato skins,” the suit adds.

It asserts that the respondent labeling practices are a violation of federal law.

According to a report compiled the Seattle law firm Perkins Coie, food and beverage class action litigation in New York increased by 33 percent last year, with 42 such cases filed in New York courts in 2018.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York case No. 1:19-CV-2735

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Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York

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