Court tosses lawsuits claiming Tito’s vodka isn’t ‘handmade’

6:12 p.m Thursday, June 2, 2016 Business

Two lawsuits claiming Austin-based Tito’s Handmade Vodka isn’t actually made by hand have been dismissed.

The suits, filed in U.S. District Court in California in 2014, both sought class-action status, asking for, among other things, refunds for customers who bought Tito’s products that were allegedly “deceptively labeled.”

Both sides jointly requested the dismissal and will pay their own legal fees, according to court documents.

A trial had been tentatively set for October.

A Tito’s spokeswoman didn’t respond this week to a request from the American-Statesman seeking comment on the dismissal.

When the first suit was filed in October 2014, Tito’s founder Tito Beveridge said, in part: “We disagree with the claims made against us and plan to defend ourselves against this misguided attack.”

That first suit leaned heavily on a dictionary definition of the word “handmade.” The definition states that handmade items are “made by hand, not by machine, and typically, therefore of superior quality.”

“Through a fraudulent, unlawful, deceptive and unfair course of conduct, Tito’s … manufactured, marketed and/or sold their Tito’s Handmade Vodka to the California general public with the false representation that the vodka was ‘handmade’ when, in actuality, the vodka is made via a highly mechanized process that is devoid of human hands,” the suit alleged.

Two months later, in December 2014, the second suit was filed, making similar claims.

“Contradictory to the ‘handmade’ and ‘crafted in an old-fashioned still pot’ representation on the label of defendant’s vodka, defendant’s manufacturing process actually employs mechanized and/or automated machinery and processes to manufacture and bottle its vodka, rather than human hands,” the suit stated.

Beveridge, then in the mortgage business, got his start making vodka for friends as a Christmas present in the early 1990s. Those friends talked him into selling it, which ultimately led to the creation of the Tito’s Handmade Vodka brand.

Beveridge sold his first case of vodka in 1997. Today, the company has grown into an international operation still based in Central Texas.

In 2013, the year prior to the two suits being filed, Tito’s shipped about 1.2 million 9-liter cases of vodka, according to court records.

The labeling the company uses has been reviewed by federal officials who signed off on the use of the word “handmade,” Beveridge told the American-Statesman in 2014.

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