Back in 2015, Goose Island Beer Co.’s famed Bourbon County brand had a recall. Four of the six Bourbon County releases developed unfortunate off-flavors due to Lactobacillus acetotolerans. In a classy move, Goose Island offered refunds for those four beers — even though there were no real health issues. In 2017, after the refund period had elapsed, two dudes from Massachusetts (Scott Kaplan and Jeff Roach) filed a lawsuit, claiming many, many things (which you can read here) but basically that the 2015 Bourbon County beers subject to the contamination did not meet the quality and standards advertised by Goose Island and that they did not get their refunds.
Kaplan spent around $196 and Roach around $600 on their Bourbon Country misadventures. Rather then wrangle in court, Goose Island sent these guys $8,000 (a check for $3,000 and $5,000 respectively). In a poor decision, the two passed on the $8,000 in order to move forward on a class action lawsuit. In May, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that the two Massachusetts men did not have a case because Goose Island had actually given them the maximum amount recoverable under the Massachusetts statute, plus additional funds to cover court costs and attorney fees. It was a clever move from Goose Island. From the Libation Law Blog that has an awesome article on the case:
Those of you following the ongoing evolution of class action cases know that there’s a particular strategy of reimbursing or paying damages to individual plaintiffs before class actions are certified that has been percolating through the circuits. Basically, in some cases it’s possible to defeat a class action by paying the individual plaintiffs what they’re owed, or the maximum of what they could possibly recover individually, thereby mooting their claims which results in their inability to prosecute not only their individual actions but also to stake a larger claim as representatives of a class.