Texas suit says restaurants guilty of fraud over 'guiltless' menu claims

Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau Jun. 12, 2008, 4:43am

DALLAS -- Chili's Grill and Bar, Romano's Macaroni Grill and On The Border Mexican Grill and Cantina are facing allegations that they misrepresented the nutritional content of menu items and unconscionably sold high-fat food that they advertised as low-fat.

Washington resident Anne Paskett, individually and on behalf of others similar situated, filed the class action complaint against Brinker International doing business as Chili's, Macaroni Grill, and On The Border on June 5, in the Dallas Division of the Northern District of Texas.

The complaint alleges that in response to rising demand, the defendant offered what it claimed were healthier and less fattening food at its restaurants. New menu items were introduced under the names of "Guiltless Grill," "Sensible Fare," and "Border Smart." The calorie count, fat grams and carbohydrate count of the new items were printed on the restaurants' menus.

Independent laboratory tests were conducted, and the lab claims it discovered that the fat content of the items are sometimes "double, or even triple, the amount shown on these menus."

Questions of law and fact include whether the defendant misrepresented the truth and accuracy of the nutritional content of the menu items; if the representations were false, misleading or deceptive; if the defendant was aware of the inaccuracy; if the advertisements breached an implied warranty; and whether the defendant should be ordered to stop advertising these items in this manner.

The complaint alleges the defendant violated the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices – Consumer Protection Act by its actions that "recklessly disregarded or reasonably should have known" that consumers would not receive the quality of food advertised.

Further, the complaint alleges the defendant was unjustly enriched by receiving payment for these misrepresented foods.

The suit seeks the return of the customers' payments for these menu items, an order stopping defendant's actions and an award of attorney fees.

The proposed class is represented by Austin attorney Robert B. Kleinman of the law firm Sutton Kleinman PLLC, the Seattle, Wash., law firm of Breskin, Johnson, and Townsend PLLC and Seattle attorney Jason G. Epstein of the Premier Law Group PLLC.

U.S. District Judge Jane J. Boyle will preside over the litigation.

Case No 3:08cv00942

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