Order in the Court: Eating out is the national pastime. But suing runs a close second. And more and more people are taking restaurants to court, especially since a woman who carelessly spilled McDonald's hot coffee onto her lap was awarded $2.9 million (later reduced to $680,000).
Ponder these recent legal battles, culled from the pages of Nation's Restaurant News, an industry trade journal:
Filing suit on behalf of exactly two aggrieved customers, the Los Angeles city attorney sued Gladstone's 4 Fish, a famous Malibu seafood house. The complaint? The plaintiffs were distraught that, after serving 8,000 lobsters, Gladstone's ran out of crustaceans during a $9.95-per-pound promotion. A settlement forced Gladstone's to pay fines and fees of more than $30,000, and to repeat the promotion for four weeks at the same price. (L.A. juries let off Rodney King's assailants and O.J., but nail Gladstone's for underestimating lobster demand. Go figure.)
A Big Apple woman sued Burger King over injuries she sustained when she spilled hot tea onto her leg. Her husband also got in on the act, demanding $250,000 for the alleged loss of his wife's "services, comfort, society and companionship."
An HIV-positive man sued a fast-food parlor, claiming that the food poisoning he allegedly contracted from a hamburger caused him to develop full-blown AIDS.
Of course, some cases show why we need to keep at least a few lawyers around:
A deaf woman sued Burger King after her handwritten order was rejected by a worker at the drive-through window, a clear violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Nobly, she didn't insist on a cash settlement. Instead, she got the company to agree to revamp its training procedures and to offer order forms for speech- and hearing-impaired customers.
The family of a New Hampshire woman sued a local pizzeria, alleging she died from an allergic reaction to its pesto sauce. According to the suit, the staff had assured the woman that the sauce did not contain nuts. The family says the restaurant management purposely withheld from servers some of the ingredients that went into the "secret" pesto sauce.
Pass the apple tort.
Onward, Christian Eaters: If you've got a hundred bucks, you can get a look at, and taste of, the good life on Saturday, December 2.
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It's the seventh annual Tour de Nsel, a progressive dinner starting with champagne at the Phoenician and making stops for the rest of the meal at four elegant Valley residences.
If a C-note is too stiff, you can opt for the brunch tour, offered on December 2 and 3. For $50, you start with mimosas at the Phoenician, then poke around at fancy homes while enjoying spreads catered by Christopher Gross (Saturday) and Vincent Guerithault (Sunday).
The tours are sponsored by the Arizona chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers. (All homes on the tour have been designed by ASID members.) The proceeds go for student designer scholarships. For more info, call 951-2950.--HowardSeftel
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