N.Y. Restaurants Sue Over City’s Health Inspections

New York City was sued by the owners of 40 restaurants in the Bronx accusing health inspectors of levying excessive fines to raise revenue and driving eateries out of business.

The restaurant owners say the inspectors haven’t been properly trained, which causes them to enforce the health code differently and violates the owners’ right to due process under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, according to the complaint filed today in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan.

Excessive fines have caused restaurants to go out of business, said the restaurant owners, who are seeking $150 million in damages, according to the suit. The plaintiffs are also seeking a stay of all fines until the case is resolved and a reorganization of the appeal process, which they called “intrinsically unfair.”

“The continued arbitrary, capricious and malicious enforcement of the health code by improperly trained health inspectors will cause these restaurant owners to suffer continued excessive fines and losses and cause some of these restaurants to go out of business,” the owners said in the complaint.

The city’s restaurant grading program has led to cleaner kitchens, with more than 80 percent now earning A grades, said Jaslee Carayol, a spokeswoman for the city’s Law Department.

“This rambling, scattershot attack on the city’s regulation of food service establishments lacks merit and should be quickly rejected by the courts,” Carayol said in an e-mailed statement.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.

The case is Board of Health Public Review Committee v. New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, 100847/2013, New York State Supreme Court, New York County (Manhattan).

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