Judge dismisses most Tito’s ‘handmade’ lawsuits
A federal judge has dismissed five out of six lawsuits against Tito’s Handmade Vodka, which alleged the brand has misled consumers with false labelling.
US District Judge Robert Hinkle threw out the claims against Fifth Generation Inc., concluding that suggestions of negligence and unjust enrichment failed and any violations were overruled because the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) had approved the label.
“But the plaintiffs also allege that Tito’s is not made in ‘an old fashioned pot still,” the judge wrote, as reported by Law360. “If this is so, it is contrary to the express assertion on the Tito’s label.
“The plaintiffs have stated an express-warranty claim on which relief can be granted.”
Judge Hinkle referred to the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of “handmade” and asserted it could not be used to literally describe vodka.
“One can knit a sweater by hand, but one cannot make vodka by hand,” the judge added. “Or at least, one cannot make vodka by hand at the volume required for a nationally marketed brand like Tito’s. No reasonable consumer could believe otherwise.”
However, because the remaining case ties the word “handmade” to “in an old fashioned pot still”, which the plaintiffs argued was false, the judge said he found the misleading claims to be reasonable.
“This is no the kind of dispute that can properly be resolved on a motion to dismiss,” the judge wrote. “Perhaps the vodka is made with equipment that can reasonably be described as an ‘old fashioned pot still”; perhaps not.
“Just from reading the first amended complaint and motion to dismiss, one cannot know.”
Earlier this year, the same Judge Hinkle dismissed a case against Maker’s Mark Distillery alleging the brand had tricked customers into thinking every bottle of Bourbon was handmade.