Florida Plaintiff Wants Appeals Court to Revive Class Action FDUTPA Claim Against Bacardi
According to a report from Law360, a Florida man is asking the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals to revive a class action fraud claim against Bermuda-headquartered spirit maker Bacardi. Among other things, the plaintiff—a consumer named Uri Marrache—alleged violations of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA). Here, our Miami deceptive & unfair trade practices attorneys provide an overview of the case.
The Background: Grains of Paradise and Adulteration
In an relatively unusual case, Mr. Marrache filed a class action consumer fraud claim against Bacardi on the grounds that the company improperly “adulterated” its product—an action he alleges is prohibited by a century old Florida state law. To adulterate something is to add something to it that dilutes the quality. It is an issue in many industries, including food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics.
The question at stake here is whether Bacardi is actually adulterating its products at all. Mr. Marrache filed the class action lawsuit because the liquor-maker adds Grains of Paradise to its gin. A spice native to West Africa, Grains of Paradise add a peppery and citrusy flavor to the spirit. Under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), Grains of Paradise are listed as a safe additive.
The Claim: Century-Old Florida Law Prohibits the Adulteration of Liquor
Here is the issue, there is still a nineteenth century law on Florida’s books that apparently prohibits spirit-makers from using certain additives, including grains of paradise. Mr. Marrache contends that, as that law is still technically valid, Bacardi has violated Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA) by “adulterating” its product with prohibited ingredients. The lawsuit was initially dismissed by a federal judge. The court ruled that the Florida law, while not repealed, was preempted by the federal FDCA which clearly classifies grains of paradise as a safe substance for consumers.
The Request on Appeal: No Federal Preemption, Revive the Case
Mr. Marrache is now asking the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals to reinstate his case against the spirit-maker. In doing so, he argues that federal law does not preempt Florida’s state law. In his FDUTPA claim, Mr. Marrache contends that Bacardi is fundamentally misleading consumers by presenting its gin as a legally permissible product in Florida.
The FDUTPA could have important implications for both Bacardi and consumer rights. It is possible that the appeals court could reinstate the case and, potentially, rule that Bacardi has to remove grains of paradise from its products to be sold in Florida—at least until Florida legislators repeal or reform existing state law.
Consult With an FDUTPA Lawyer in South Florida
At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our Florida consumer fraud attorneys represent clients with integrity, personal focus, and high level professional skill. You can count on us to protect your rights and help you find the best possible solution. Get in touch with our firm today for a confidential review of your case. We represent businesses and individuals in FDUTPA claims throughout Southeastern Florida.