A consumer has filed a putative class action against Jim Beam Brands Co. and its owner Beam Suntory Import Co. alleging that the label indicating that the bourbon whiskey is “handcrafted” is misleading because the bourbon is produced with machines. Welk v. Beam Suntory Import Co., No. 15-328 (U.S. Dist. Ct., filed February 17, 2015).
The complaint asserts that videos, photos and diagrams on Jim Beam’s website show that its bourbon “is manufactured using mechanized and/or automated processes, resembling a modern day assembly line and involving little to no human supervision, assistance or involvement.” The handcrafted claim leads consumers to purchase Jim Beam Bourbon falsely believing it to be of superior quality, so they are willing to pay a premium price, the complaint argues. The plaintiff alleges misrepresentation and violations of California’s False Advertising Law and Unfair Competition Law, and he seeks class certification, an injunction, an order for Jim Beam to begin a corrective advertising campaign, restitution, damages, and attorney’s fees. The firms representing the plaintiff also represent two consumers alleging similar claims against Maker’s Mark, a premium brand of bourbon also owned by Beam Suntory. Details about that December 2014 complaint appear in Issue 548 of this Update.