Restaurant Law Blog

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Judge Finds For City in Suit Challenging Department of Health Inspections

The relatively new Department of Health restaurant inspection system has been the source of constant anxiety among restaurant owners in New York City.  As a result, a group of restaurateurs has brought suit against the City in the Manhattan Supreme Court.

The group of almost 40 restaurant owners attacked the system in its entirety.  They claimed that instead of making it better for restaurants in the City, being subject to the scheme has been bad for business in general.  The penalty structure, which is widely accessible via the internet, designates fines ranging from $200-$1,000 for listed violations.  The plaintiffs claimed that these fines are assessed arbitrarily and for the sole purpose of raising revenue.  They also alleged that often times, due to the differing experience of inspectors, the fines that were originally assessed were then increased when the site was visited by an supervisor. The plaintiffs also claimed in their suit that the City Council overstepped their authority when passing parts of the charter legalizing the Department of Health regulations.  They asserted that the provisions were unconstitutional as the City Council did not have the authority to pass them in the first place.  The group also sought changes to the appeals process and $150 million in damages.

The City challenged the suit stating that they did not overstep their authority and that there was no problem with the fines and a Supreme Court Judge agreed.   She found that provisions of the charter were not unconstitutional, using the recent overturn of the ban on large soft-drinks as an example.  She also decided that there was no problem with supervisors increasing fines after inspections, as they are supposed to be better at finding violations, and that the fines were not excessive.  The plaintiffs’ attorney stated that he would appeal the decision as the Department of Health inspection system has caused, and will continue to cause, “tremendous injustices” for restaurant owners.  

If you are a restaurant owner and need representation with regard to compliance with the Department of Health, contact the DiPasquale Law Group.  Call us at (646)383-4607 for a consultation today. 

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