Technical flaw hinders Tito’s Handmade Vodka lawsuitBy Melita Kiely
A judge has rejected the majority of arguments in a lawsuit against Tito’s Handmade Vodka claiming the brand is misleading consumers, and temporarily stonewalled the class action due to a technical flaw.
California judge Jeffrey T. Miller partially granted defendant Fifth Generation Inc.’s motion to dismiss, but said it had not proven that safe harbour requirements barred the allegations or that its label could deceive no reasonable consumer.
However, Fifth Generation did prove complainant Gary Hofmann failed to display the full extent of his economic damage because he did not claim he would not have bought the vodka if it had not been labelled “Handmade”.
“These paragraphs are not incorporated by reference into his statutory causes of action,” Judge Miller wrote. “Moreover, plaintiff’s opposition did not direct the court to these paragraphs.”
Tito’s Handmade Vodka has been hit with lawsuits in California and Florida alleging consumers have been duped into believing the brand is handcrafted when it is actually made through a mechanised process.
However, the judge deemed that while Hofmann does express that he would not have purchased Tito’s Handmade Vodka if he had known about the alleged false advertising in his claim, he did not include sections to support them under California’s Unfair Competition Law, False Advertising Law, False Advertising Law of Consumers Legal Remedies Act.
His lawyer said the ruling left the complaint entirely intact after a planned revision, which Hofman seemed willing to amend.
“The judge understands the gravity of the claims at issue in this case,” John H. Donboli of Del Mar Law Group LLP told Law360.
However, Judge Miller dismissed Fifth Generation’s remaining arguments, which included that Hofman was required to allege something was wrong with his vodka or that he could have bought a different vodka at a cheaper price.
“The court is not persuaded that plaintiff must allege that Tito’s was defective, that he could have purchased comparable vodka for less or that it matters if the vodka he bought was worth, in strictly monetary terms, what he paid for it,” said Judge Miller.