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January 18, 2013
NEW YORKA New York federal judge has denied a request from a Massachusetts man to certify a class-action lawsuit that was filed against Skinnygirl Cocktails LLC, SCG Global LLC and Beam Global Spirits & Wine, Inc.
The ruling severely curtails the incentive of the named plaintiff, Christopher Rapczynski, and his lawyers to proceed with litigation because any damages awarded in the complaint alleging deceptive advertising would be nominal even if he prevailed.
Rapczynski filed the complaint in New York after purchasing bottles of Skinnygirl Margarita, the ready-to-drink alcoholic beverage that reality TV star Bethenny Frankel and David Kanbar developed. The lawsuit claims the defendants caused "millions of purchasers of 'Skinnygirl Margarita' to purchase that product under the false pretense that it was 'all-natural' and contained only '100% Blue Agave tequila,' Agave nectar and caramel color."
In a 16-page memorandum and order dated Jan. 9, U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken ruled the named plaintiff failed to establish the prerequisites of class certification.
Rapczynski had purchased the bottles of Skinnygirl Margarita in Massachusetts, yet asserted claims under New York laws. The judge said the state laws don't protect his purchases, resulting in failure to show his claims would be typical of class members in New York.
"Here, where a plaintiff purchased the product at issue in Massachusetts, he cannot be the typical representative of a class asserting claims under New York law," Oetken wrote in the order. "Thus, at least as to the New York statutory claims, this Court would do a disservice to the putative class by certifying it with Rapczynski as the named plaintiff."
The judge also pointed out that Rapczynski acknowledged he would have purchased the product regardless of price and that his belief concerning its naturalness was irrelevant to his buying decision. Those admissions undermined his required showing that his claims would be typical of the class.
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