MIAMI — A MillerCoors spokesman says a class action lawsuit alleging its Coors brand beer deceptively uses the Rocky Mountains in its advertising is "baseless."
Joaquin Lorenzo filed a class action against MillerCoors LLC, Molson Coors Brewing Company and SABMiller PLC, on March 8 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, alleging the company engaged in deceptive advertising by claiming its beer was “brewed with pure Rocky Mountain spring water," which he says allowed the company to charge a premium for the product.
The lawsuit is "totally baseless and without merit," a MillerCoors spokesman told Legal Newsline in a statement.
“Coors Light was born in the Rockies in 1978 and that fact remains true today,” the statement said.
“The brand’s messaging continues to be inspired by its Rocky Mountain birthplace. We are proud that its popularity allows us to brew Coors Light in several of our breweries and we clearly communicate that fact on our packaging.”
But Lorenzo disagrees that the company is clear about the origins of its brew.
Through print, television and online ads, as well as on social media and on brewery tours, MillerCoors uses statements to indicate Coors Light is exclusively made with Rocky Mountain spring water, the complaint states.
Statements include: "Proudly brewed in the Rocky Mountain tradition"; "When the Mountains Turn Blue It's as Cold as the Rockies"; "What would we be without our mountains?"; "Our Mountain is brewing the World's most refreshing beer"; and "Born in the Rockies."
"Based on this and other marketing by defendants, reasonable consumers believe that Coors Light sold in the U.S. through defendants is exclusively brewed in the Rockies, and not in other parts of the United States," Lazaro told Courthouse News.
This is an unusual case and the allegations are a reach, Julie Hussey, a partner at Perkins Coie told Legal Newsline.
“No reasonable consumer is going to be misled by statements like ‘Born in the Rockies’ or ‘What would we be without our mountains?’” Hussey said.
Images of mountains on the packaging also wouldn’t lead a reasonable person to conclude the beer is brewed exclusively in or by the mountains, she said.
“At most these statements are just puffery, not an actionable statement,” Hussey said.
This is not the first time a consumer has filed a complaint against MillerCoors that alleges deceptive advertising. San Diego resident Evan Parent filed a lawsuit against the brewer in May 2015 alleging MillerCoors’ Blue Moon product was advertised as a craft beer that had been produced in a small brewery.
In October, U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel threw out the lawsuit against MillerCoors, reasoning that there is no widely accepted standard definition for “craft beer.” The judge also ruled that while MillerCoors branding wasn’t on the Blue Moon website, no reasonable consumer “could be misled into believing that Blue Moon is an ‘independently brewed, hand-crafted beer’ not owned by MillerCoors.”
An increase in complaints against brewers comes as plaintiffs appear to be shifting their focus from the food to alcohol space, Hussey said.
“So many food companies have been sued, now plaintiffs are looking for the next horizon for litigation,” she added.