It appears that a wild lawsuit against TGI Friday’s is moving forward. According to The Washington Post, an Illinois woman named Amy Joseph claims that she ordered "Mozzarella Sticks Snacks" on Amazon. When they arrived, the snacks actually featured cheddar, rather than mozzarella. Now the woman is ironically suing for cheddar, stating the branding, which prominently features a picture of mozzarella sticks, is misleading.
A ruling, granting the pursuance of the lawsuit, was made on November 28 by Judge Robert Dow Jr., who agreed it was a “reasonable interpretation” to expect mozzarella cheese due to the branding. In a move of clever legality, TGI Friday’s placed the blame on a licensor, who allowed their branding to be used on the packaging. To bench the blame game, Dow decided the lawsuit would name snack-food maker Inventure Foods as sole defendant, the actual manufacturer of the product who used the licensing, which in effect dropped TGI Friday's from the suit.
Joseph is seeking unspecified “monetary relief” for the misleading “premium” products she purchased.
The Washington Post reported that Dow considered it reasonable that “a product labeled ‘Mozzarella Stick Snacks’ with an image of mozzarella sticks would bear some resemblance to mozzarella sticks, which presumably contain some mozzarella cheese.”
Making a curious case, Inventure Foods argued that because the product is sold alongside potato chips and other similar shelf-stable snacks, Joseph should have known better than to assume it contained actual mozzarella. Yet after doing a comparative analysis involving types of shelf-stable cheeses, Dow concluded that the, “Defendant has not indicated why mozzarella is inherently not shelf-stable.” Joseph’s argument had some merit.
In a filing by Inventure Foods, Joseph was called a “serial class action plaintiff” who had filed eight such lawsuits in the last decade. They further highlighted that the packaging itself discloses that it contains no mozzarella on the back.
Inventure Foods filing states, “It is well-established that a single statement on a product’s label cannot be taken in isolation and the totality of labeling must be analyzed to assess whether a reasonable consumer could be misled.”
“We intend to proceed against Inventure Foods on behalf of the nationwide class of purchasers of TGI Friday’s mozzarella sticks,” Joseph’s attorney, Thomas Zimmerman, told USA TODAY in a statement, taking the ruling as a first step towards victory.
Despite the ruling, whether or not TGI Friday’s has received nationwide complaints for their mozz-free “Mozzarella Sticks Snacks” is unclear. Dow admitted that he was skeptical of Joseph securing a nationwide class-action lawsuit.
“The Court is hard-pressed to state that Plaintiff’s class action is inherently unmanageable based on variations in state law at this early stage when it is not clear which state law will ultimately present an issue or whether similarities in some – though not all – state laws would justify class treatment,” he wrote.