Class action over unlisted drink prices at TGI Fridays is tossed; suit versus Carrabba’s survives

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The New Jersey Supreme Court has refused to allow class action status for a lawsuit contending TGI Fridays violated state consumer protection laws by failing to disclose drink prices on its menus.

But the same court allowed a narrowed drink-price class action against Carrabba’s Italian Grill and other restaurants owned by its corporate parent. The court allowed allegations that the restaurants violated consumer fraud law by charging different prices for the same drink during a single visit to the restaurant without disclosing the price change. The Courier-Post, Reuters and Law.com (sub. req.) covered the decision (PDF) in the consolidated appeals.

In the TGI Fridays case, plaintiffs Debra Dugan and Alan Fox cited market research showing customers who were aware of beverage prices spent an average of $1.72 less on drinks than customers who weren’t told the prices. They sought to use that figure to calculate global damages for the class.

But the state high court said past precedent rejects price-inflation theories for proving damages, and there was no common class because the loss to each class member is unknown.

The plaintiff in the second suit, Ernest Bozzi, said he was charged $3.25 for the first Peroni beer he ordered at Carrabba’s, and $4.25 for the second. Bozzi said that when he questioned the bill, a staffer told him the restaurant charges different prices at different times. The court allowed the consumer fraud claim, if supported by specific receipts.

A dissenter said the TGI Friday’s decision was a “major blow for consumer rights” that left thousands of the restaurant’s patrons without a meaningful remedy.




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