A beer buyer accusing Anheuser-Busch of deceiving customers about the origins of its Leffe "abbey ale" told a Florida federal court on Friday the brewing company can't escape his proposed class action, saying he has legitimate claims because he was "aggrieved."
Plaintiff Henry Vazquez said he only has to show that he was "angry or sad on grounds of perceived unfair treatment" in the past to have jurisdiction under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, which does not require a future threat of injury.
"Florida Statutes, permits a claim for injunctive relief by 'anyone aggrieved' by an unfair or deceptive act, which has occurred, is now occurring, or is likely to occur in the future," Vazquez said in his motion. "Accordingly, even if there was no future injury to Vazquez, he still has standing for an injunctive relief claim for past aggrievement."
Vasquez said last month he was no longer seeking monetary damages, but merely injunctive relief, on his claims that consumers were tricked into believing Leffe is brewed by Belgian monks in an actual abbey when the product is actually mass produced in a factory.
In August, he sought to certify a class of nationwide beer buyers seeking monetary damages for unjust enrichment, a Florida class seeking monetary damages under Florida's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act and a Florida class seeking injunctive relief under that same statute.
But in giving up on monetary relief, Vasquez's suit no longer meets the $5 million amount-in-controversy requirement of the Class Action Fairness Act under which he sued, thus the federal court no longer has jurisdiction, Anheuser-Busch said in opposition..
Anheuser-Busch added that aside from the fact that the Florida federal court no longer has jurisdiction, Vasquez also lacks standing to seek injunctive relief as he no longer purchases Leffe and speculated during his deposition as to whether he would purchase it in the future, "creating an independent jurisdictional defect in his sole remaining claim."
But Vazquez insists his aggrievement means he can still bring a federal suit, and pointed to Anheuser-Busch's admission that it has changed labels as evidence that he was indeed aggrieved by allegedly unfair and deceptive labeling within the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act's definition.
An attorney representing Anheuser-Busch did not immediately return a request for comment late Friday.
Vazquez is represented by Ervin Amado Gonzalez, Patrick Montoya and Natalie Rico of Colson Hicks Eidson.
Anheuser-Busch is represented by Stanley Wakshlag and Janelle Ans of Kenny Nachwalter PA and by James Bennett and Hannah Preston of Dowd Bennett LLP.
The case is Vazquez et al. v. Anheuser-Busch Companies LLC, case number 1:16-cv-21181, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.