A judge agreed to let TGI Fridays off the hook in a class action lawsuit that claims a TGI Fridays-branded mozzarella stick snack is misleading because it contains no mozzarella cheese, but also ruled the lawsuit can proceed against the food's manufacturer.
The lawsuit was filed in federal court in 2021 by Amy Joseph against TGI Fridays and snack manufacturer Inventure Foods over their snack product, “TGI Fridays Mozzarella Sticks Snacks”.
Joseph claims the product is misbranded and misleads consumers into believing it contains mozzarella cheese, when it in fact only contains cheddar.
Federal judge Robert Dow Jr. denied motions from both defendants to dismiss the case this week, but granted TGI Fridays' motion to be removed as a defendant in the case because he found the restaurant chain’s only role in the product was as a licensor.
“While Plaintiff makes wide-ranging allegations in her complaint about TGIF’s role in the creation of the Product, the Product’s packaging – and the complaint – show that TGI Fridays is only the licensor of the mark,” wrote Dow in a memorandum issued Monday.
Free McDonald's for life? Here's how to get your hands on the rare McGold Card
Dow argued that a company licensing its trademark to appear on a product is not enough to make it liable for any misleading advertising.
Joseph, an Illinois resident, said she purchased a six pack of the product on Amazon last year and mistakenly believed the sticks would contain mozzarella because the listing didn’t provide an description of the ingredients.
The product is labeled “Mozzarella Sticks Snacks” and features an image of what appear to be mozzarella sticks.
The back label specifies the sticks contain no mozzarella, but Joseph said she would’ve still “reasonably” believed the product contained mozzarella given the prominence of the words “Mozzarella Sticks” and “her reasonable understanding that mozzarella sticks, by definition, contain mozzarella cheese,” court documents show.
Attorneys for Inventure Foods have alleged in court that Joseph is a “serial class action plaintiff” who has filed numerous suits in Illinois over the last decade, and argued that Joseph “cherry-picked” only one part of the product’s labeling.
“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,” Inventure Foods' attorneys wrote in a memorandum supporting the motion to dismiss the case last year.
Dow’s ruling this week means the case will proceed solely against Inventure Foods.
“We are pleased with the judge’s ruling. The judge agreed with us that the claims in the lawsuit have merit, the case should not be dismissed,” Joseph’s lawyer, Thomas Zimmerman Jr., said to USA TODAY in a statement. “We intend to proceed against Inventure Foods on behalf of the nationwide class of purchasers of TGI Fridays mozzarella sticks.”
An inquiry sent to Inventure Foods’ lawyers was not immediately returned Thursday.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: TGI Fridays 'Mozzarella Sticks Snack' have no mozzarella: lawsuit