It’s not unusual for consumers to sue large global companies.
Toyota is involved in a number of lawsuits over car safety issues, and you can bet that British Petroleum will face a ton of litigation in the wake of the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Large companies are seen as easy targets for big-money settlements, whether they are guilty of the accusations made or not.
Which brings us to E&J Gallo, the global wine giant based in California. In 2008, it came to light that a significant quantity of French wine that Gallo bottled under its Red Bicyclette label as Pinot Noir actually was Merlot.
Gallo had a contract with a French supplier guaranteeing that the wine it purchased was Pinot Noir. A French court ruled against the supplier in February.
End of story, right?
Now, a consumer named Mark Zeller has engaged the services of class-action and personal injury lawsuit specialist Kingsley & Kingsley to sue not only the French cooperative that supplied the wine, but also the French wine merchant that purchased it on the bulk market for the co-op, as well as Gallo.
The lawsuit claims that “the defendants, by labeling, marketing, promoting, distributing and selling the falsely labeled wine, either knew or in the exercise of reasonable care should have known that their conduct was misleading and deceptive.”
Which is all well and good. But there is a question that comes to mind: What are the actual damages that were experienced by Mr. Zeller?
The 2006 Red Bicyclette Pinot Noir received a so-so rating of 83 on a 100-point scale from Wine Spectator. It retailed for around $11 per bottle, but often could be found for well under $10.
In other words, this wasn’t Chateau Petrus. (Even if it was Merlot…)
A consumer who purchased a bottle of Red Bicyclette Pinot Noir actually got a bottle of wine. It wasn’t as if they’d received beer or orange juice instead.
Should consumers expect to get a bottle of Pinot Noir when they buy a bottle labeled as a Pinot Noir? Of course.
And if they don’t, should they be entitled to a replacement or a refund? Of course.
But a lawsuit against the company that a French court already has ruled was duped in this matter?
That seems a bit extreme.
Particularly if the litigant drank more than a few bottles of the mislabeled Red Bicyclette.
This certainly will be an interesting case to follow.