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Legal Roundtable Discusses DoorDash Lawsuit, Whistleblower Protections

Restaurants that accuse online delivery services of harming their businesses could see relief if a St. Louis eatery is successful in its class-action lawsuit against DoorDash.

That’s according to St. Louis on the Air’s Legal Roundtable, which discussed the lawsuit filed on behalf of Lona's Lil Eats last month in federal court. Panelists were Nicole Gorovsky, an attorney at Gorovsky Law; David Roland, director of litigation at the Freedom Center of Missouri; and Bill Freivogel, an attorney who's a journalism professor at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.

Roland said he sees the lawsuit as likely to attain class-action status.

“This has affected a number of different establishments," he said. "It is a recurring problem, it’s a widespread problem, and so I think the likelihood of being able to certify as a class is probably pretty good.”

Lona’s Lil Eats accuses the delivery platform of publishing “false and deceptive information” by featuring its menu, only to say its food is “unavailable.” Some consumers conclude the restaurant is closed when in reality, it simply refused to sign up with DoorDash.

A previous episode of St. Louis on the Air focused on local restaurants’ complaints about such services, which they say are relentless in adding their menus to its site even without their permission.

“They’re stealing the company’s menu, and their information, and they’re putting it on DoorDash,” Gorovsky said. “That’s incredibly deceptive, and I think there is a good case here.”

She added: “This kind of thing has happened to me when I’ve been on DoorDash. I’m looking for my favorite restaurant, and they say it’s unavailable, and I totally thought my favorite restaurant had shut down. And that’s totally not OK. It is false and deceptive information.”

The panel also discussed the potential for a copyright infringement case against Mark and Patricia McCloskey. The pair used a journalist’s photo of themselves pointing guns at protesters in a Christmas card; the journalist’s syndicate, UPI, has said it’s considering a cease-and-desist letter.

“I think they probably are not going to have a problem,” Freivogel predicted. “It’s not like the McCloskeys are trying to make money off of this Christmas card. I think it would be most likely within what’s called a ‘fair use’ exception to copyright [law]. I think they’ll be able to send out their Christmas card without having to worry too much about it.”

The panel also dug into the lawsuit filed by a former county council member who is suing St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, saying Page fired her from a cabinet position after she complained about his failure to follow county ordinances mandating minority inclusion in contracts. And panelists explored the allegation that Page has violated the county charter by working weekly shifts as a physician. The county’s charter states that the executive “shall devote his entire time to the duties of his office.” The panel disagreed on whether Page is likely in violation.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

Copyright 2021 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Sarah Fenske joined St. Louis Public Radio as host of St. Louis on the Air in July 2019. Before that, she spent twenty years in newspapers, working as a reporter, columnist and editor in Cleveland, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles and St. Louis. She won the Livingston Award for Young Journalists for her work in Phoenix exposing corruption at the local housing authority. She also won numerous awards for column writing, including multiple first place wins from the Arizona Press Club, the Association of Women in Journalism (the Clarion Awards) and the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. From 2015 to July 2019, Sarah was editor in chief of St. Louis' alt-weekly, the Riverfront Times. She and her husband, John, are raising their two young daughters and ill-behaved border terrier in Lafayette Square.