Templeton Rye Spirits, LLC from Templeton, Iowa has been accused of consumer fraud, false and/or deceptive advertising and unjust enrichment in a putative class action lawsuit filed in Cook County Circuit Court in Chicago, Illinois.
The Complaint, filed on September 9, 2014, highlights Templeton Rye’s marketing which, among other things, touts that its namesake rye whiskey is “Made in Iowa” using small-scale production methods and produced pursuant to “a prohibition-era whiskey recipe that was the favorite drink of Chicago mobster Al Capone.”
Plaintiff alleges that, contrary to these representations, Defendant’s rye whiskey is actually mass produced in Indiana where it is “distilled and aged at the Indiana factory of MGP Ingredients, Inc.” and “the only activity that occurs in Iowa is the emptying of the barrels and the filling of the bottles….”
Plaintiff further contends that Templeton Rye has admitted that the rye whiskey it obtains from MGP is a “stock” recipe from MGP and “not one tied to Templeton’s Prohibition era” and that “reproducing the [prohibition-era] recipe is impossible due to federal rules regulating the proof and production of rye whiskey.”
Based on the foregoing, Plaintiff filed claims under Iowa and Illinois consumer fraud and deceptive business practices statutes and common law claims for “consumer fraud”, “fraud by omission” and “restitution / unjust enrichment.” All of these claims contend that consumers have been damaged because they reasonably believed the “premium” price they allegedly paid for the product was based on it being a small-batch, “Iowa whiskey, made in Iowa, distilled just like the prohibition-era ‘good stuff’, and [made] with Iowa ingredients (e.g , Iowa water).”
As is common for these cases, it may ultimately prove difficult for plaintiffs to show that the alleged deception actually caused them any damage, i.e., payment of a premium price because of the alleged misstatements. After all, they paid for a good rye whiskey and received a good rye whiskey and the associated marketing may simply be “typical advertising fluff” not be tied to any economic harm.