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A federal court in Louisiana has dismissed with prejudice a lawsuit alleging that Chipotle Mexican Grill's food caused the plaintiff to contract Helicobacter pylori, holding that the plaintiff had not pleaded "any semblance of a fact that causally connects [his] illness" with Chipotle. Gilyard v. Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., No. 17-0441 (W.D. La., entered June 14, 2018). The court found that the plaintiff failed to plead "factual allegations sufficient to show that Chipotle failed to act as a prudent person skilled in food preparation." The only factual allegation in the complaint, the court noted, was that the plaintiff regularly ate at Chipotle in the two months before he was diagnosed with an H. pylori infection. Further, the court found, the complaint did not allege how the food was defective, how the duty of reasonable care in making or storing the food was breached, or that Chipotle provided contaminated food or utensils.

Brinker International Inc. faces a putative class action alleging hackers stole customers' personally identifiable information (PII) from point-of-sale systems at Chili's Grill & Bar in April and May 2018. Steinmetz v. Brinker Int'l, Inc, No. 18-0981 (D. Nev., filed May 30, 2018). The plaintiff seeks damages, an injunction and attorney's fees for negligence and alleged violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act and Nevada consumer-protection law. Wendy’s International LLC has agreed to settle a lawsuit alleging that a similar point-of-sale breach exposed customers’ PII at more than 1,000 locations nationwide. Jackson v. Wendy's Int'l LLC, No. 16-0210 (M.D. Fla., entered May 25. 2018). The lawsuit was previously dismissed, then an amended complaint proceeded. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed. An Illinois federal court dismissed a putative class action without prejudice after the plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed claims related to a data breach of Panera Bread Co.’s customer records because none…

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has affirmed a ruling that a Texas restaurant, “The Krusty Krab,” infringed Viacom International Inc.'s common law trademark. Viacom Int’l, Inc. v. IJR Capital Invs., No. 17-20334 (5th Cir., entered May 22, 2018). The court held that Viacom had established both use and distinctiveness of the mark because "The Krusty Krab” had been extensively and consistently licensed, establishing Viacom’s ownership of the mark as an identifier of goods and services. The court also found an impermissible likelihood of consumer confusion. Although the court noted that its ruling did not establish trademark protection “in every context” for Viacom’s mark, it affirmed the finding of the district court that Viacom had established its ownership in common law.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has ruled that a pizzeria that fired an employee who criticized a manager did not violate the National Labor Relations Act. Bud’s Woodfire Oven LLC, No. 05-194577 (N.L.R.B., issued May 18, 2018). The determination focused on whether the employee acted on his own behalf or engaged in protected concerted activity by criticizing his manager using profanity during a staff meeting. The board found no corroboration for the employee’s testimony that other coworkers had complained about the manager’s conduct; further, the employee's criticism did not "lay the foundation for meaningful dialogue about employees' terms and conditions of employment.” Instead, the employee’s remark was intended as an insult and “calculated to undermine [the manager’s] authority,” the board held.

Burger King Corp. faces a civil-rights lawsuit after an employee at a Boston location accused a man of trying to pay for food with an allegedly counterfeit $10 bill, refused to return the bill and called the police when the man would not leave the restaurant. Ellis v. Burger King Corp., No. 1884-CV-01489 (Mass. Super. Ct., Suffolk Cty., filed May 14, 2018). The plaintiff, who is homeless and black, alleges that when he was arraigned, he was charged with possession of counterfeit notes and a probation violation and was subsequently held without bail from November 12, 2015, until February 19, 2016. He was reportedly released when the U.S. Secret Service notified the prosecutor that the $10 bill was authentic and not counterfeit. Burger King allegedly did not return the $10 bill to the man. Claiming conversion, defamation, negligence and violation of the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act, the plaintiff seeks attorney's fees and $950,000…

An Arizona woman has sued Red Lobster Hospitality alleging that she contracted E. coli from eating a salad at a Red Lobster in Phoenix. Styles v. Red Lobster Hospitality, LLC, No. 18-1361 (D. Ariz., filed May 1, 2018). The plaintiff alleged she ate the salad, which contained romaine lettuce, on March 23, 2018, and became ill around March 29, 2018. After she was hospitalized, she tested positive for E. coli O157:H7 bacteria, which has been linked to an outbreak of E. coli from romaine lettuce grown near Yuma, Arizona. Claiming breach of warranty, strict liability and negligence, the plaintiff seeks damages and attorney’s fees. A similar lawsuit was filed against Panera Bread Co. in April 2018.

The U.K. Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld an advocacy group's challenge to the use of the term “natural” by Pret A Manger but rejected a challenge to the company’s advertising claim that its breads are fresh-baked at each location. Ads on Pret A Manger’s website and Facebook page claimed that the chain makes “handmade natural food,” “avoiding the obscure chemicals, additives and preservatives common to so much of the ‘prepared’ and ‘fast food’ on the market.” Pret A Manger argued that the ads did not imply that it uses only natural ingredients or that its food is additive- and preservative-free; rather, the terminology was used to express the company's mission, which is partly to “avoid (as opposed to entirely eliminate) ‘obscure’ (as opposed to all)” chemicals. ASA upheld the challenge, determining that consumers were likely to interpret the claims to mean that the chain’s food was “natural” and free from…

Panera Bread Co. faces a putative class action alleging that a data breach exposed the personal data of thousands of customers to hackers, increasing their risk of fraud and identity theft. Boykin v. Panera Bread Co., No. 18-2461 (N.D. Ill., filed April 5, 2018). The complaint alleges that the company failed to protect the personally identifiable information of Panera’s My Rewards card and My Panera app users, including names, credit and debit card numbers, expiration dates and verification codes, email addresses, telephone numbers and birth dates. In August 2017, a “white-hat hacker” apparently accessed the information and notified Panera about the potential security breach. Although Panera reportedly told the hacker it was developing a solution, the complaint alleges that the hacker “checked it every month or so” and ultimately contacted the publisher of Krebs on Security in 2018 to bring attention to the issue. The plaintiffs assert that in the…

Ruling that the jury instructions were misleading, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has reversed a jury verdict finding for a seafood restaurant in a lawsuit involving allegations of foodborne illness. Rhodes v. Lazy Flamingo 2 Inc., No. 17-11338 (M.D. Fla., entered March 29, 2018). The plaintiffs alleged negligence per se after one ate Lazy Flamingo's oysters, which were contaminated with Vibrio vulnificus and caused an illness requiring five days of hospitalization. A Florida regulation requires foodservice establishments serving raw oysters to display a health-risk warning on menus or table placards; the jury was instructed that it could consider the text of the regulation as well as a Florida foodservice industry bulletin indicating the warning “may be on menus, table placards, or elsewhere in plain view of all customers.” The appeals court found no evidence that the bulletin offered a "reasonable interpretation” of the regulation, reversed the verdict…

A federal court in New York has dismissed with prejudice a shareholder suit against Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., finding the plaintiffs were unable to allege that the company made “demonstrably false” statements about foodborne illness outbreaks linked to its restaurants. Ong v. Chipotle Mexican Grill, No. 16-0141 (S.D.N.Y., entered March 22, 2018). The plaintiffs alleged that Chipotle and three of its executives misled shareholders and the public in 2015 and 2016 statements after outbreaks of norovirus, E. coli and Salmonella were linked to its restaurants. In addition to finding Chipotle’s annual reports contained sufficient disclosures about its processes, the court found that the plaintiffs failed to adequately allege that executives who knew about the outbreaks' connection to Chipotle sold more than $214 million in stock because the stock sales occurred months before the outbreaks were linked to the company.

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