Four Loko Lawsuit: Phusion Projects Sued in SoCal for Shady Sale Tactics, Asked to Refund Every Last Loko | The Informer | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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Four Loko Lawsuit: Phusion Projects Sued in SoCal for Shady Sale Tactics, Asked to Refund Every Last Loko

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Thu, Mar 10, 2011 at 10:30 AM

click to enlarge You are getting very thirsty...
  • You are getting very thirsty...
Updated after the jump: How to get your $2.75 back, if the Four Loko case is won!

Months after Phusion Projects pulled their "blackout in a can" off the nation's shelves and replaced it with a watered-down, far less enticing alternative (something of a ghetto pukeberry Smirnoff Ice), the company still can't seem to catch a break.

Maybe a lawsuit was inevitable, but this one's more X-treme than a Four Loko font:

Three legal teams in San Diego, Brooklyn and Florida are backing a massive class-action suit that demands, among other things, "a refund for every person who purchased Four Loko during the last four years" [Reuters Legal].

Damn. Howard Rubinstein, the Florida attorney on the case, tells the Weekly that most of the plaintiffs are disgruntled young people "who consumed it not knowing the side effects were beyond what they expected."

According to the complaint, Loko's "vibrant packaging," or eight different shades of camouflage (which, for the sake of argument, we kind of read as "will supremely obliterate all those who come within 50 feet") misled buyers into guzzling "the caffeine equivalent of a cup of coffee and about as much alcohol as in four to five beers."

Not a good thing, apparently.

Before the FDA bullied Phusion Projects into removing the caffeine, guarana and taurine from their epic/deadly concoction, Four Loko was blamed for the death of at least one college student and critical illness of dozens more.

"Why should the company keep the money when it caused people's lives to be ended?" says Rubinstein.

In addition, according to Reuters, "the class-action suit says that Phusion committed fraud and violated California consumer protection law." The case will be heard at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California. We'll be reaching out to some plaintiffs and reviewing the lawsuit in full, so stay tuned.

Here's the company's response:

"In our opinion, this lawsuit is meritless and we plan to vigorously defend against it. We have always disclosed the contents of all of our products and we did not make any misrepresentations about our products.

As a responsible member of the alcoholic beverage industry we have gone above and beyond federal and state labeling requirements to make sure consumers know what our product is so that it can be consumed responsibly. We work alongside our distributors and the stores that sell our products to ensure they are marketed, sold and consumed safely and responsibly."

Still can't get enough Loko? Well, we're not exactly proud of this, but we might have participated in a weeklong countdown to the death of the Big Crazy back in December. Do with it what you will: "R.I.P. Four Loko."

And a brief side-request for Phusion: Would you also mind refunding our youth? And the bulk of our brain cells? Maybe you could even throw in some college credits, while you're at it.

Update: If the class-action lawsuit succeeds in suing Phusion Projects for all they're worth, here's how to get your piece of the pie:

"There's a number of ways to do it," says Florida attorney Howard Rubinstein. "They may need a receipt, or you may have to make a statement on a form, knowing that if you lie it's perjury."

He says another possibility may be "bringing in the label." (We assume Rubinstein means "bringing in the can," and are now suspicious he hasn't ever seen, or sapped, a Loko. Whatever happened to the "Training Day" method of intimately familiarizing oneself with the enemy substance?)

Looks like those nostalgia empties in a row across your frat-house mantle might come in handy, after all.

Anyway, Rubinstein sent us a copy of the lawsuit, and it's everything we hoped it'd be. The complaint is filed by Jacqueline Richardson, who lives a couple hours south of L.A., in El Cajon. Here's her story:

"Based on the advertising and labeling of these products and the omissions of material facts from such labeling and advertising, Plaintiff purchased Four Loko Fruit Punch on August 20 and 21, 2010 from Boulevard Liquor in El Cajon, San Diego County, California, for a purchase price of approximately $3.00 per can. Nothing in the advertising, labeling, packaging, marketing, promotion and selling of Four Loko gave her any warning of the particular dangers of drinking a caffeinated beverage with high alcoholic content, set forth in detail above."

Three dollars? What a rip-off. Richardson thinks it's such a momentous rip-off, in fact, that she's claiming the following:

"As a direct result, Plaintiff has suffered injury in fact and a loss of money or property in that she has been deprived of the benefit of her bargain and has spent money purchasing Four Loko at a price premium when it actually had significantly less value than was reflected in the price she paid for it."

Which happens to be the exact opposite of every argument we've ever heard for buying and consuming a Loko. Of course, that was before the arguer was lying face-down in a puddle of his own vomit.

Originally published March 9 at 1:25 p.m.

[@simone_electra/swilson@laweekly.com]

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