Our View: Brewery suit a boon to bottom-feeders

In case you missed it, the faith-in-humanity camp got smacked last week.

It had nothing to do with news out of Washington.

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Instead, a good chunk of humankind — or at least the ones who follow such things — had ripe reason to hang its collective head after it was reported the parent company of Kona Brewing Co. agreed on a tentative settlement with the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed two years ago over allegations that the company’s packaging and advertising misleads customers.

Craft Brew Alliance Inc., which owns Kona Brewing Co., said it expects to spend about $4.7 million to settle the lawsuit.

Filed in 2017, the suit accuses the company of using “false and deceptive packaging and advertising” to mislead customers into believing Kona Brewing Co. beer was brewed in Hawaii.

The beer is brewed in Kona, but it’s brewed elsewhere, too. A successful product begets expansion, and expansion requires, well, expansion.

Kona Brewing Co.’s Kailua-Kona facility produces about 12,000 barrels of beer annually, but its bottled and canned beers as well as its mainland draft is brewed in breweries located in Oregon, Washington state, Colorado and New Hampshire.

Therein lies the details fit for a court drama.

The mainland variety is what the plaintiffs bought. The pair of Californians who chose to imbibe that fateful night thought they were duped because the decoration on the bottles with the surfer, waves and Hawaiian landscape made them believe the very beer going down their gullets was also brewed in Hawaii.

Had they known it was brewed in the mainland, the complaint states, they wouldn’t have bought the beer “or would have paid significantly less for it.” Whatever significantly less is, exactly, on a $8 six-pack, is for attorneys to parse.

In here somewhere is a nuanced argument about protecting the consumer, the little guy, and the moral and ethic responsibility to ensure corporations don’t exploit the populace for their own greed and benefit.

Call us hungover, but we don’t really want to dig deep to find it.

If the contents of that bottle was brewed on the mainland, by god, stamp it across the label! But the real lesson here is this is the cost of doing business. Or, in the business world, the cost of being successful. This society is a litigious one and this seems more about punishing and picking from the earners rather than protecting the vulnerable.

“We’re not admitting any liability in this process,” Craft Brew Alliance general counsel Marcus Reed told West Hawaii Today. “We’re not admitting any fault whatsoever, but it helps us to avoid all the inconvenience and the expense and the burden of litigation going forward.”

The lawsuit argues that the beer is “falsely labeled as made in Hawaii.” Actually, the specific phrase “made in Hawaii” doesn’t appear on bottles or packaging.

Undeterred, the lawsuit pointed to “intentionally deceptive Hawaii-origin representations” on the labeling and packaging of the company’s products.

Darn it, those images of surfers and sunsets are cool, aren’t they? Our one burning question is were the plaintiffs actually sitting around drinking the beer when they hatched their plan?

We’d argue Kona Brewery does a great job representing the islands, but it’d be an argument more fitting for a bar stool than the courtroom, apparently.

Kona Brewery’s recipes and specifications are dictated by Kona Brewing’s brewmaster and samples of each batch are sent to the Kailua-Kona brewery for evaluation. The company started, grew and remains headquartered in Kona, where it’s footprint is expanding and where it calls the company shots as it stretches its national market.

And some of their beers taste pretty darn good, here or on the mainland.

Alas.

The class action settlement means more people can join and get paid, too. That’s right. More people can latch on and get financially compensated for damages they allegedly suffered for drinking certain Kona beers on the mainland since February 2013.

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Ugh.

That was a groan of disappointment in our fellow man.

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