Court won't transfer lawsuit over '8' on bottles of Old Charter bourbon

By Laura Halleman | Sep 5, 2017

ST. LOUIS (Legal Newsline) – The U.S. District Court of Eastern District of Missouri has denied a motion for change of venue to distilleries named in a class action lawsuit that claims they falsely labeled their Buffalo Trace Bourbon.

Defendants had sought to transfer venue to Kentucky’s western district.

Buffalo Trace Distillery Inc., Old Charter Distillery Co. and Sazerac Co. are the defendants named in the lawsuit brought by plaintiffs Stephen Penrose, James Thomas, Joseph Guardino and Daniel Pope.

Plaintiffs claim defendants “misrepresented that Old Charter bourbon has been aged eight years through implication because the number eight remains on its bottles,” the May 30 court opinion stated.

The bottles had previously stated the bourbon had been “aged” eight years, the opinion stated. Because of this, plaintiffs claimed they were misled due to the number eight still being on the bottles in the same place it had been when the label included “aged.”

The defendants, however, state the label means the bourbon was aged for eight seasons, rather than years, and the plaintiffs just misunderstood the label.

The court considered three factors when determining if a change of venue is valid. It considered “the convenience of the parties, the convenience of the witnesses and the interest of justice,” the opinion stated.

The defendants argued that having the venue in Kentucky would be more convenient for plaintiffs and defendants because Kentucky is where most of the evidence and witnesses were. Most of the witnesses are employees of the defendants.

The court also found that evidence in the case could be transmitted electronically and caused no reason for a change of venue.

The defendants also argued that the plaintiffs were “forum shopping” but the court found no evidence of this.

“Defendants have not met their burden of showing the convenience of the parties and witnesses and the interest of justice strongly favor transfer,” the opinion says.

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