A New Jersey federal court has again denied class certification to a trio of
women suing Beam Global Spirits & Wine for allegedly misrepresenting
Skinnygirl® Margaritas as using “only natural ingredients” despite
containing sodium benzoate. Stewart v. Beam Global Spirits & Wine,
Inc., No. 11-5149 (D.N.J., order entered June 8, 2015). Details about the
court’s previous examination of certification appear in Issue 529 of this
Update.

The plaintiffs argued that the class could be ascertained through a
three-level screening process designed to limit the number of fraudulent
claims. The process would require potential claimants to provide a
(i) claim form and receipt for the purchase of the product or (ii) a
sworn affidavit with the dates, locations and prices of their Skinnygirl®
Margarita purchases as well as a description of the bottle. In the latter
case, the screeners would then check the potential claimants’ affidavits
for accuracy to determine, for example, if the retailers listed actually sold
the product at the cited times.

Rejecting the plaintiffs’ approach, the court found that the proposed
screening was administratively unfeasible and unreliable. Most of the
potential class members probably have not kept their receipts, the court
noted, and even if they had, the screeners could not determine if the
same receipt had been used for multiple claims. Further, true potential
claimants may forget information required by the affidavits, while
fraudulent claimants could gather the information for a claim without
actually purchasing a bottle of the product. The plaintiffs also could not
show that the method was reliable, the court found, because it had only
been used to determine potential claimants in class actions that had
already been settled.

Skinnygirl and a consumer settled a similar lawsuit in May 2015 after
an Illinois federal court refused to certify the proposed class on similar
grounds. Details about that stipulation appear in Issue 564 of this
Update.

 

Issue 569

About The Author

For decades, manufacturers, distributors and retailers at every link in the food chain have come to Shook, Hardy & Bacon to partner with a legal team that understands the issues they face in today's evolving food production industry. Shook attorneys work with some of the world's largest food, beverage and agribusiness companies to establish preventative measures, conduct internal audits, develop public relations strategies, and advance tort reform initiatives.

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