| NEW YORK, July 10
NEW YORK, July 10 Darden Restaurants Inc
, the parent of Olive Garden and Red Lobster, won the
dismissal of a New York lawsuit accusing it of illegally adding
an automatic 18 percent tip to diners' bills and failing to list
beverage prices on its menus.
In a decision made public on Thursday, U.S. District Judge
Katherine Polk Failla in Manhattan rejected claims by plaintiff
Ted Dimond, who sought to represent diners in a class-action,
that Darden's practices violated state consumer protection laws.
Dimond claimed it was deceptive for Darden to refer to the
mandatory tip it imposed in some restaurants as a "gratuity,"
which he called a "voluntary act."
But the judge said Darden "conspicuously" showed the tip on
its menus before diners placed their orders, and that diners
were free to leave if they disapproved.
She also said New Yorkers often leave tips of 18 percent to
20 percent, undercutting the argument they might feel "tricked"
into having to fork over tips at the low end of that range.
While New York City has its own laws on menu surcharges,
private diners cannot use them as a basis to sue, Failla said.
The judge also said failing to list beer and soft drink
prices by itself caused no harm, and was not misleading because
reasonable customers could get those prices by asking.
Failla's 34-page decision is dated July 9.
Jeffrey Smith, a lawyer for Dimond, said he was disappointed
with the decision, and that his client would review his options.
The case is Dimond v. Darden Restaurants Inc et al, U.S.
District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 13-05244.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Lisa