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Food Trucks: The Legal (and Constitutional!) Issues of Food on Wheels

Level: Advanced
Runtime: 93 minutes
Recorded Date: August 27, 2019
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  • Food Truck Industry Background
  • Challenges to Scope of Regulations and Location Based on Economic and Other Rights
  • Types of Mobile Food Units
  • Food Truck Permitting
  • Legal Issues/Considerations
  • Food Trucks and Tort Liability Concerns
Runtime: 1 hour and 33 minutes
Recorded: August 27, 2019


As the food truck industry becomes ubiquitous in city centers, its entrepreneurs increase in numbers and the regulation of the business becomes more difficult to navigate. Special considerations are required for food truck entrepreneurs to successfully operate. Licensing and permitting issues cover both the food and motor vehicle aspects of the business. Some localities regulate the industry and some do not – the variation across communities is immense – and the scope of regulatory efforts can infringe on the economic rights of these business owners. The business may not stop at the truck window, either. Many food truck owners are moving into pop-up restaurants and other distribution methods for their food, which means owners must protect their branding to protect their long-term business interests.

Join our panel as they share their extensive experience and expertise and answer your questions about the important legal issues raised by the food truck industry.

This program was recorded on August 27th, 2019.

Provided By

American Bar Association
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Rachel Schaffer Lawson

Founding Attorney
Schaffer Law Firm, PLLC

After interning in Nashville during her time at Loyola University College of Law, Rachel knew she needed to make Music City her permanent home upon graduating in 2010. Though she passed the Tennessee bar exam in Fall of the same year, finding a job in the midst of a recession seemed abysmal. In deciding what her next step would be, she took the leap into starting her own business with Schaffer Law Firm PLLC.

Since the firm’s creation in 2011, Rachel sought to help local lifestyle small businesses that did not seem to get the same amount of love and attention from attorneys and other professional providers as larger high-growth businesses like health care and tech. After helping one of her long-time clients, Bella Napoli Pizzeria, she accidentally found herself assisting them with renewing their alcoholic beverage licenses. She discovered that although it was very complex, she loved helping with the process. When she looked around, she also noticed there were not many other attorneys practicing in this area. From there, she set out to teach herself how to help restaurants, bars, breweries, distilleries and distributors obtain their beer and liquor licenses.

As Rachel’s client base started to grow, so too did the practice. In 2013 Rachel hired her first intern, Kelcy Morris. Kelcy quickly became indispensable to SLF, and when she passed the bar in 2014 she became SLF’s first associate “minion.” From 2013 to 2017 SLF has seen many wonderful interns – Landon Braezeale, Samatha Sibley and Julianne Lackey. All of them were graduates from Belmont University College of Law. In fall 2017 Rachel brought on the wife of one of her long-time clients as SLF’s first paralegal, Elizabeth Barese.

Today Rachel describes SLF as a reverse general practice, providing a myriad of legal services to three specific types of clients: hospitality, nonprofits and small business entrepreneurs. She still maintains her passion and love for the original business idea, and proudly states that SLF works for the “tiny home” of small business; that there is no business too small for SLF.

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Justin M. Pearson

Managing Attorney
Institute for Justice

Justin Pearson is the Institute’s Florida Office Managing Attorney and oversees the Institute’s national economic liberty efforts. Justin’s current cases include a major First Amendment challenge brought on behalf of a Maryland dairy farmer against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s ban on honestly labeling additive-free skim milk as “skim milk,” another major First Amendment challenge brought on behalf of vegan food businesses against Mississippi’s ban on well-understood terms like “veggie burger,” and a state constitutional challenge brought on behalf of Florida food-truck owners against Fort Pierce’s 500-foot ban on competition. Justin litigates on behalf of small-business owners across the nation, often winning in novel ways. He was the lead counsel in a federal appellate court victory vindicating the right of a Florida dairy creamery to tell the truth on its labels, which was the first victorious First Amendment challenge to a food standard of identity in U.S. history. His win against Little Rock’s ban on taxi competition was based on a provision in the Arkansas Constitution that had not been successfully relied upon in over half a century. And in Fort Pierce, Justin recently obtained the first preliminary injunction ever issued in a rational basis challenge anywhere in the nation. In addition to litigation, Justin has testified to numerous Florida Senate and House committees on issues ranging from the constitutional implications of occupational licensing laws to the need for civil forfeiture reform, and provisions suggested by Justin have been enacted into law. Prior to joining IJ, Justin founded and managed his own law practice to advocate for small-business owners, and Justin’s law practice was successful for many years before he made the decision to join IJ in 2012 to better fight against government power gone awry. Justin received his law degree with honors from the University of Miami in 2002, where he was the research and writing editor for, and was published in, the University of Miami Business Law Review. Justin received his undergraduate degree in business management from North Carolina State University. In 2017, Justin was honored by the Daily Business Review and for being one of South Florida’s “Most Effective Lawyers.” Outside of IJ, Justin is on the steering committee for the Federalist Society’s Miami Lawyers Chapter, is on the James Madison Institute’s Miami Board of Advisors, and is a member of the American Enterprise Institute’s Leadership Network.

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Lawrence Opalewski

Dalton & Tomich, PLC

Larry received his law degree from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law in 2013 (J.D., cum laude). While at UDM Law, Mr. Opalewski was a Title Editor on the UDM Law Review, a member of the Dean’s Honor Society, and a recipient of the Dean’s Scholarship. Mr. Opalewski also received a Book Award for earning the highest grade in his Evidence class. He was also involved with the Elder Law and Estate Planning Society. His Law Review Article, “Why the Michigan Supreme Court in Saurman was Wrong to Grant MERS the Authority to Foreclose by Advertisement in Michigan,” was published in the University of Detroit Mercy Law Review, Volume 90-2.

Before law school, Mr. Opalewski graduated from Oakland University in 2010 with a B.A., cum laude, in Political Science with a minor in History. While at Oakland, he spent a summer studying abroad in Israel where he also volunteered teaching English to young children.

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