Restaurants, Hotels & Hospitality

Thompson Coe understands the unique issues that face companies involved in the distribution of food products – whether at the wholesale level or as restaurant owners and franchisors. Our work with leading national insurers means we offer reliable defense when our clients are confronted by litigation and reputation damaging claims involving anything from simple premises liability to bet-the-company lawsuits. And we advise on ongoing operational issues involving employment law, franchising and other business concerns.

Group Highlights: Restaurants, Hotels & Hospitality
  • Capability to handle high profile litigation that involves significant media scrutiny
  • Full-service legal counsel with an industry focus that includes not only dispute resolution, but also tax, employment, restructuring and business guidance
  • Extensive experience representing large regional companies involved in food and beverage distribution and restaurant franchising.

Operational Litigation

Lawsuits alleging illness or personal injury are an unavoidable fact of business for restaurants and other hospitality companies. Thompson Coe has a national reputation for effective trial and defense of such cases. Our lawyers apply superior litigation skills and work in partnership with clients and their insurers to resolve personal injury and premises liability lawsuits. Thanks to our extensive insurance defense and product liability practices, we have unsurpassed skill at preventing spoliation of evidence and preserving the injury or damage scene, working to secure access before evidence is destroyed. Such effectiveness is often the key to securing summary judgment dismissal of claims, or reaching an advantageous settlement.

High Profile Litigation

Beyond management of the ongoing litigation risks that businesses in the food service industry face, Thompson Coe has the capabilities to handle high-profile lawsuits with millions of dollars and even company survival at stake.

One such case involved allegations against our food product distribution client, a leading regional operation that supplies restaurant, food store and institutional customers in 11 states. Plaintiffs claimed that our client was responsible for improper handling of chili products that led to a number of illnesses during the mid-1990s, in one of the worst botulism outbreaks during the past two decades.

Thompson Coe worked for more than two years to demonstrate that our client took proper precautions in keeping the chili products refrigerated, and that other companies in the distribution chain could well have been at fault. When the matter ultimately came to trial in 2007, we negotiated a settlement during trial proceedings in which our client agreed to pay only a small percentage of the millions of dollars in damages sought.

Franchising Issues

Thompson Coe has a practical understanding of the complex financing, development, operational and litigation issues that restaurant franchisors face. We serve as general counsel to a major nationwide franchisor of pizza restaurants, and have played a key role in structuring its franchising documents to accommodate the legal requirements of states from the East Coast to California.

We help our client work with franchisees on the legal implications of employment, financing and dispute resolution, and are available to resolve controversies that arise in franchisor-franchisee relations.

Other Business Law Services

Our services to restaurant and hospitality clients include such general corporate work as finance, tax counsel, and company and division acquisitions and sales. We also advise on more specialized issues involving:

  • Labor and employment, particularly immigration law compliance, union avoidance, and harassment or discrimination complaints
  • Real estate purchases, sales and leasing
  • Intellectual property (protecting trademarks, copyrights, and service marks) and related issues in marketing and franchising activities
  • Tax counsel, particularly with regard to franchise taxation
  • Contracts with vendors and suppliers, and related pricing and antitrust issues.

Summary:  Industry Knowledge

Whether the challenge involves complex litigation, multi-state franchising laws or everyday operational issues, Thompson Coe understands the restaurant, hotel and hospitality industry’s needs. Some of our clients have well known brand names, others are leaders in the behind-the-scenes operations of distribution and supply. All rely on our strong business, dispute resolution and insurance capabilities to help them manage risks and pursue opportunities in this highly visible and competitive business sector.