The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) has ordered the centralization of six actions claiming that Anheuser-Busch Companies, LLC, systematically overstated the alcohol content of its malt beverage products by diluting them with water. In Re: Anheuser-Busch Beer Labeling Mktg. & Sales Practices Litig., MDL No. 2448 (JPML, decided June 10, 2013). The putative class actions being centralized have all alleged that the beer manufacturer added extra water to 11 different products despite its claims that any deviation from the alcohol content stated on the product label “is within the range permitted by federal regulation.”
In transferring the actions to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, the panel agreed with plaintiffs that “notwithstanding defendants’ apparent acknowledgement of some variance for unspecified products, the alleged conduct at issue—systematic overstatement of alcohol content—will remain in dispute and will involve complex discovery concerning the calibration of the involved equipment and corporate policy with respect to labeling.” The order thus finds that all six actions “involve common questions of fact” and that centralization under Section 1407 “will eliminate duplicative discovery; prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings, especially with respect to class certification; and conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel and the judiciary.” Additional details about the putative class actions appear in Issue 473 of this Update.