David Lazarus of the L. A. Times reports on an effort to extend disability accommodation requirements to the terms of all-you-can-eat deals. A hungry person with Type 2 Diabetes, David Martin, is suing the A Ca-Shi restaurant for disability discrimination.  Mr. Martin claims he went to the  restaurant to take advantage of its all-you-can-eat sushi special. 

Being a diabetic who was attempting to control his condition with diet, he found rice to be hazardous.  He attempted to eat only the fish from the sushi, effectively converting the sushi special into a sashimi special.  Sashimi quality fish being far more expensive than rice, the restaurant owner, Jay Oh, enforced a rule that you have to eat the entire piece of sushi before getting another one.

Mr. Martin filed suit and the restaurant is defending it, despite the fact that the cost of defense is greater than the reported $6,000 settlement demand.  Part of the defense argument is that no accommodation is necessary in this context.  Most everyone would rather have unlimited sashimi than unlimited sushi.  If Mr. Martin wants sashimi, he can pay for it just like anyone else who would rather fill up on fish than on a combination of fish and rice. 

The other part of the argument is that allowing people to leave their rice on the plate and consume only the fish would create an economic hardship for the restaurant.

“The rice is part of the all-you-can-eat sushi,” Oh said. “If you only eat the fish, I would go broke.”

Interestingly, as Mr. Lazarus points out, those with more serious diabetes (Type 1), who must inject insulin, can adjust their insulin dose so as to be able to eat the rice in sushi.  It is only those with the milder form–who can control the condition with diet alone–who need to avoid so much of a carbohydrate load. 

The requirement of eating everything on the plate before getting refills is common where one of the items on the plate is more costly than the others.  If claims of allergy or potential blood sugar imbalance override these requirements, this form of “all-you-can-eat” deal will likely disappear.  That said, most restaurants would probably try to work out a compromise–perhaps by requiring the patron to substitute another form of filler (lettuce?) for the rice. 

This dispute is another example of the difficulties faced by small businesses in trying to survive while complying with well-intentioned laws being enforced through litigation. The area of accommodating disabilities is especially hard, since it requires more than treating people the same.  Each accommodation needs to fit the unique circumstances of each situation. Here, what would work for a Type 1 diabetic might not work for a Type 2 sufferer.