Not coincidentally, the federal District Court for the Northern District of California, known increasingly for its plaintiff-friendly embrace of preposterous food and beverage consumer class actions, is where apparently alcohol-obsessed litigants have filed a new, multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Anheuser-Busch, alleging that the actual alcohol content of various beers is marginally lower than labels indicate.
As reported by CNN, Sonoma County, California residents Nina Giampaoli and John Elbert are the lead plaintiffs who supposedly stopped buying Budweiser after learning of the alleged mislabeling, their lawsuit claims.
The plaintiffs’ lead lawyer, Josh Boxer of San Rafael, California, tells the Associated Press that the allegations of watered-down beer are “based on information from former employees at the company’s 13 U.S. breweries, some in high-level plant positions,” but he “stopped short of saying the beers had been independently tested.”
Sober Judicial Hellholes readers might wonder if inserting the word “disgruntled” in front of “former employees” might make Mr. Boxer’s statement more accurate. And the more cynical among us might even smell a whiff of extortion or an insider-trading conspiracy on his breath as Anheuser-Busch looks to have its proposed $20 billion merger with Mexican brewers, Grupo Modelo, blessed by anti-trust authorities. Plaintiffs surely are well aware of the fact that the timing of their allegations could impede that merger.
In any case, while Judicial Hellholes reporters have been known to toss back a brewski or two on occasion, we’d have to go all the way back to our days as sometimes irresponsible college students to recall the last time we paid any attention to a beer label’s declaration of alcohol content. In more moderate adulthood, taste and price have been the key factors in our beer-buying choices. In fact, lower-alcohol content beverages are often more appealing to us as responsible adults than are higher-alcohol content beverages.
So it’s difficult to understand precisely what kind of values and priorities are motivating this no-class class action. If the case goes to trial, will the opening statement of the plaintiffs’ lawyer go something like this?
“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, for the next several weeks and at considerable expense to you and other American taxpayers who provide precious court resources, we will prove by a preponderance of the evidence that consumers of certain beers were willfully denied their right to get as drunk as they’d planned to get and therefore probably behaved a little more responsibly — you know, like adults are supposed to. We’re sure you’ll agree that the brewer’s conduct was outrageous, and that, with a giant verdict that will help buy a fantastic yacht I’ve had my eye on, you’ll send a message loud and clear to brewers everywhere that American consumers deserve more alcohol by content, not less. Thank you.”