Maker’s Mark wins second ‘handmade’ lawsuit
Claims that Maker’s Mark misled consumers by labelling its whiskey “handmade” have been dismissed by a judge, who ruled that no “reasonable consumer” could be misguided by the claim.
US District Judge, John A. Houston ruled in favour of the brand’s parent company Beam Suntory in a California class action lawsuit, launched last year.
Judge Houston disagreed with plaintiffs Safora Nowrouzi and Travis Williams’ effort to sue Maker’s Mark for “negligent and intentional misrepresentation”, and outlined that the term “handmade” should not be interpreted as meaning literally by hand, without the use of equipment or automated process.
The plaintiffs, who sought an injunction barring the Bourbon company from claiming its whiskey is handmade, alleged that the Maker’s Mark website claims the brand uses an old antique roller mill to break up grains – however, a video tour of the factory on the same site reveals that the company uses modern equipment.
In addition, the lawsuit claimed the video shows that the mixing of ingredients, fermentation, distillation, bottling, and labelling processes are also completed by machine, .
The company argued that that the negligence claim should be thrown out based on California’s economic loss doctrine, which states that plaintiffs claiming “economic harm” can only recover damages based on a contractual claim.
The intentional misrepresentation claim was dismissed by the judge as plaintiffs “couldn’t plausibly contend that Maker’s Mark purposely deceived consumers about the nature of its processes”, when its label “clearly” describes the process and directs buyers to its website where there are videos of the mechanised process.
The case was ended by Judge Houston on Monday.
Earlier this year Maker’s Mark Bourbon set a precedent by becoming the first spirit brand to successfully defend its status as “handmade” in a separate lawsuit in Florida