Sazerac Company, Inc., the makers of Fireball whiskey, have found themselves on the wrong side of a class action lawsuit claiming that a variation of the popular alcoholic beverage do not actually contain any whiskey.
The reason this matters, according to the complaint filed in Illinois district court, is because the labeling on the small, 99-cent version of the drink misleads consumers into thinking it does contain whiskey, as does the larger size bottles. Allegedly, this constitutes fraud, misrepresentation, and even breach of warranty, under Illinois state and U.S. federal law and the suit is seeking unspecified monetary damages.
The Sazarec website clearly indicates that the smaller 99-cent bottles, branded as Fireball Cinnamon, are made from a blend of malt beverage and wine, while the actual whiskey-based products are called Fireball Cinnamon Whisky. But a closer inspection reveals that the labels describe the product as a "malt beverage with natural whisky & other flavors and carmel color." Allegedly, this commonly leads consumers to think that whiskey is an ingredient used in the drink when it really only contains whiskey flavor. "What the label means to say is that the product contains 'natural whisky flavors & other flavors,' but by not including the word 'flavors' after 'natural whisky,' purchasers who look closely will expect the distilled spirit of whisky was added as a separate ingredient," the complaint argues.
And to add insult to injury, the complaint alleges that at 99 cents, the 1.7 ounce bottle of malt beverage is overpriced.
Why It Matters. Even though the lawsuit was filed in Illinois and relies on several Illinois statutes prohibiting fraudulent misrepresentations in consumer advertising, the case is venued in federal district court and necessarily states additional causes of action under federal truth-in-advertising statues, including the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act.
Enacted in 1975, Magnuson Moss (15 U.S.C. Section 2301 et seq.) is intended to protect consumers from deceptive warranty practices. Consumer products are not required to have warranties, but if one is given, it must comply with the Magnuson-Moss Act.
More importantly, for the class representative and her attorneys, the Act provides that a prevailing party may not only be entitled to compensatory monetary damages but also the reasonable costs of bringing the lawsuit as well as attorney’s fees.