A federal court reinstates a lawsuit alleging Sysco shorted restaurants on chicken deliveries

The revived lawsuit charges the distributor with under-filling 40-pound cartons of chicken. It asks that the suit be certified as a class action.
The suit accuses the distributor's Jacksonville facility of under-filling cartons of chicken. | Photo: Shutterstock

A lawsuit alleging Sysco repeatedly shortchanged several Florida restaurants on their chicken purchases has been reinstated by a federal appeals court, clearing the way for a possible class action.

The suit alleges that cartons of chicken shipped by a Sysco facility to the restaurants contained less than the 40 pounds of poultry the establishments had ordered. Yet, the plaintiffs allege, they were charged for the full 40 pounds.

The plaintiffs are A1A Burrito Works, A1A Burrito Works Taco Shop 2 and their parent company, Juniper Beach Enterprises. They have asked that the suit be certified as a class action, which would potentially open the complaint to other restaurant plaintiffs.

The suit had been dismissed in March 2022 because a lower federal court ruled it did not have jurisdiction in the matter. The complaint, originally filed in a state court, alleged that the Sysco facility in Jacksonville, Fla., had violated state regulations governing labeled shipments. Sysco successfully moved that the lawsuit be moved to a federal court, which dismissed the matter because it pivoted on state regulations, over which it had no jurisdiction.

The plaintiffs recently appealed that ruling, arguing that the shorted shipments were a straightforward violation of their distribution contract with Sysco. The U.S. Eleventh District Court of Appeals affirmed that it had no oversight of the state law originally invoked by the complainants, but decided that the lower court was wrong in not considering the breach of contract allegations.

In its decision, the appeals court noted allegations by the restaurants that they’d been shorted at least 13 times over the course of a year in how much chicken was actually in the cartons Sysco delivered. The actual weights reported by the plaintiffs ranged from 34.7 pounds to 37.3 pounds, according to court documents.

The restaurants said the weight was also checked at their request by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The inspectors checked multiple containers and found each was underfilled, according to the plaintiff. Yet the labels stated that the cartons contained 40 pounds of the poultry, and that the recipients were charged accordingly.  

The decision by the appeals court assures that the dispute will be re-opened, but did not indicate the timing.

Sysco declined to comment as of the time of this posting.

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